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UNEDITED ADVANCE REVIEW COPY Publication Date: February 2, 2021 Media Contact: Jaguar Bennett Jaguar@LindenPub.com • 1-800-345-4447 $19.95 US • ISBN 978-1-61035-900-9 Trade Paperback • 6" x 9" • 466 pages PACE PRESS An imprint of Linden Publishing, Inc. 2006 S. Mary St., Fresno, CA 93721 Distributed by Ingram Publisher Services


FICTION / Historical / World War II

A sweeping novel of history, war, and courage in the face of injustice, Tears of Honor tells the story of the heroic Japanese-American soldiers who fought against Nazi tyranny in Europe, while their families were imprisoned in America. Sammy and Freddy are two all-American boys in the summer of 1941, dreaming of becoming professional baseball players and maybe asking a girl to the senior prom. But when war comes, Sammy Miyaki, Freddy Shiraga, and their families are seen as enemy aliens, not Americans. Taken from their homes in rural central California and placed in internment camps, the boys decide that the only way to prove their loyalty to America is to join the Army. Assigned to an all-Japanese-American combat unit fighting against the Germans, Sammy and Freddy are placed under the command of the combat-hardened Lieutenant Young Oak Kim (a real-life person and one of the most highly decorated American soldiers in history), who leads them through some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Sammy, Freddy and their comrades confront the prejudice of white soldiers and the horrors of combat, as they come to realize they are fighting not just for the United States, but for the honor or all Japanese-Americans. James A. Ardaiz is a former prosecutor, judge, and Presiding Justice of the California Fifth District Court of Appeal. His previous books include Hands Through Stone, a nonfiction account of the investigation and prosecution of murderer Clarence Ray Allen, and the mystery novels Fractured Justice and Shades of Truth. UNEDITED ADVANCE REVIEW COPY Publication Date: February 2, 2021 Media Contact: Jaguar Bennett Jaguar@LindenPub.com • 1-800-345-4447 $19.95 US • ISBN 978-1-61035-900-9 Trade Paperback • 6" x 9" • 466 pages PACE PRESS An imprint of Linden Publishing, Inc. 2006 S. Mary St., Fresno, CA 93721 Distributed by Ingram Publisher Services


TEARS OF HONOR

James A. Ardaiz

Pace Press Fresno, California


Tears of Honor Copyright Š 2021 by James A. Ardaiz. All rights reserved. Published by Pace Press An imprint of Linden Publishing 2006 South Mary Street, Fresno, California 93721 (559) 233-6633 / (800) 345-4447 PacePress.com Pace Press and Colophon are trademarks of Linden Publishing, Inc. Cover design by Tanja Prokop, www.bookcoverworld.com Book design by Andrea Reider ISBN 978-1-61035-900-9 135798642 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper. This is a work of fiction. Except for direct quotes from historical personages, the names, places, characters, and incidents in this book are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is coincidental. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file.


to the reader

A

number of years ago I was asked to give a speech about the American judiciary, of which I have been privileged to be a part. My focus was on the failures of the American judiciary, when the values of our laws have been severely tested by unpopular issues. One case I discussed was Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the United States Supreme Court decision permitting the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II, and particularly the dissent of Associate Justice Robert Jackson expressing his rejection of the Court’s actions as unconstitutional. If anyone has an interest in what it means to be a judge, that dissent expresses it. It was the Court’s conservatives who expressed outrage at what I consider to be one of the American judicial system’s great failures to stand up to a monumental wrong. When confronted with that obligation, it failed. After giving the speech, I began to read about the Korematsu case’s background and the history of Executive Order 9066, by which President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the forced relocations. What caught my attention consistently were the references to the young Japanese men who left the relocation camps to fight in Europe, leaving behind parents and loved ones in concentration camps. Why would they do that? I set out to find the answer to that question. This book is the result. In addition to several years reading numerous sourcebooks, it took me five years to write this novel. While I consulted many books and documents, my primary sources for the war were interviews with men who participated in the specific events described, such as Colonel Young Oak Kim, Captain Martin Higgins, and Private First Class Al Tortolano. I was privileged to speak to many people who had been inside the relocation camps, as well as people who had seen it happen from the outside. As would be expected, most were quite elderly, but their memories were


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clear. Listening to them, I knew this was an American story that had never been told from the different perspectives of the many individuals whose actions so deeply affected each other. I decided to tell this story from three of those perspectives: the people relocated to guarded camps, far from their homes; the government that ordered that relocation; and the men who fought in the 100/442nd Regimental Combat Team—the most decorated, the most wounded, and the fiercest fighting unit of World War II. It was very difficult to weave the stories together. There is so much history and there are so many individual stories. I tried to create representative characters, and those characters are composites. The Miyaki, Shiraga, and Machado families are fictional. But I didn’t create fictitious incidents. I placed my characters within the events of history. In addition to sticking to the facts, I tried to capture the personality of a time I did not live through. So much changes and yet, so much stays the same. But how people talked and described their experience in those days is very different from today. As for the actual men and women who helped orchestrate these events, I used their names. Because I chose to do this, I was very careful with their words. It was startling to find out that much of what was said by government officials with respect to the relocation was recorded and transcribed. I had access to those transcriptions through the efforts of historians who spent what, I know, were countless hours cataloging historical moments. I found it unnecessary to embellish the actual words to provide context and a sense of history. The words came from the men and women to whom they are attributed, including Earl Warren, later Governor of the State of California and, finally, Chief Justice of the United States. The words attributed to President Roosevelt and to the functionaries, aides, and generals surrounding him are, with minor nonsubstantive exceptions for context, their words. In order to assure the reader that these are actual quotes, the quotes are preceded by an asterisk (*). To me, this device was the least disruptive method to signal actual quotes. It’s my belief that the actual words allow readers to make their own judgments. To the extent statements are attributed to actual historical characters, but not preceded by an asterisk, the statement is consistent with the context and historical documentation of what occurred. I did edit the iv


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asterisked quotes to make them read more smoothly, but I made every effort to ensure that nothing was taken out of context, or presented in a misleading light. I make no judgments about the members of our government who orchestrated the relocations. Their words are portrayed accurately, as are their actions. Some were well-meaning, and some were not. What surprised me was who some of the people were who demanded and supported the relocations, and how cynical their motivations were. Many people given the responsibility of governance did wrong even though they believed it was right, and many people did right and were treated as if they did wrong. It’s easy to say what you might have done when you can look back at history. I don’t think it’s quite so easy when you are confronted with history-making events. All government documents referred to or quoted are actual documents. They were gleaned from the National Archives, academic compilations, and resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University. While there are numerous selected references to documents and transcribed statements related to the relocations, the most comprehensive is the nine-volume work of Roger Daniels, American Concentration Camps. This compilation of documents includes many transcribed statements from historical figures involved in the relocation, and was a primary source to ensure accurate quotations. Mr. Daniels’ meticulous attention to the relocation’s history is invaluable, as are his other detailed academic works about the relocation. There are also many other documents obtained by historians and utilized in subsequent research material. I have included the many primary reference materials in the Source Materials list at the end of this book. I was also allowed access to the archives of the Go for Broke Foundation, which graciously permitted me to review documentation and recorded interviews with members of the 100/442nd regimental combat team preserving their experiences, although almost all of them have passed on. Those interviews included people who were detained in the camps created for the relocations, and I was privileged to speak to many of them, although for the sake of their privacy I refrain from listing their names here. It seems common that men and women who have lived through the ravages of war as soldiers do not like to talk about it. I had the privilege v


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of being allowed inside that circle of warriors who fought and bled for this country, while their parents worried and grieved behind walls of wire. I also had the privilege of individual detainees providing me with private recollections, which I wove into this book as part of the composite story. Many of the events described in Tears of Honor seem unreal. They actually happened. The combat descriptions were taken from National Archives battle reports, interviews, and other well-documented resource. The bayonet banzai charge described in this book actually occurred. It was, to the best understanding of historians, the only banzai charge ever made by Americans. The description of the Lost Texas Battalion’s experiences was gathered through personal interviews with the surviving commanding officer, Marty Higgins, and with Al Tortolano, a surviving member of the Alamo Regiment, and from confirmation by independent source documents. The location of the honors ceremony was altered to provide literary continuity. Last, but not least, a major character in this book, Colonel Young Oak Kim, was a real person. His account was gathered during six months of interviews. The events in which he is portrayed as a participant were described by him and confirmed by independent source documents, including daily battle reports. The author has been privileged to know many brave men. Young Oak Kim’s exploits are the stuff of legend. They really happened. He was the bravest of them all. The author was honored to attend his funeral. I watched officers from three countries stand and salute, and I watched the long line of men from the 100/442nd give him one last measure of respect. Floral wreaths were sent by France, Korea, and the United States. It was a privilege to interview men who once stood proud as soldiers and now, for those left, stand bowed with age but unbowed as men. Kim is buried with his men, as he requested, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu. Kim and Higgins are gone now, but it was an honor to know them. They were real American heroes, as were the men who stood with them. Listening to them and Al Tortolano was profoundly moving, as were my discussions with so many men who spoke with humility, even though what they did was profoundly brave. vi


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This book isn’t a documentary. It’s a story. I’ve done my best to accurately relate what happened. If there are mistakes, they are mine. Hopefully, those who remember because they were there will feel that I honored their story. Hopefully, those who were not there will now know the story. I tried to tell this story as best I could. I cannot say that I did it as well as it could possibly be done, but I can say that I tried my utmost to honor the men who fought and died for this country, and to tell the story of their parents who submitted to the unjust demands of their country. And I tried to tell the story of the government that decided to incarcerate so many loyal Americans simply because of the color of their skin and the set of their eyes. When I finished this book, it reminded me of why I am proud to be an American. I hope that when you, the reader, finish this book, you’ll feel the same way. I can say that to a man, the participants said the same thing: They were Americans. James A. Ardaiz

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“Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost.” Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860)


dedication

T

his book is dedicated to the many men and women who fought for our freedom during World War II, including my mother, First Lieutenant Ruby Morris (South Pacific) and my father, Captain Harry Ardaiz (Aleutians). Whether the battlefield was in the Pacific islands or the bloody fields of Europe, young men and women sacrificed their lives because they believed in something greater than themselves. No one made a greater sacrifice then the young Japanese Americans of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and the MIS (Military Intelligence Service). In order to serve their country, many left concentration camps created by their own country. They left mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers behind wire fences with armed guards, wearing the same uniform they proudly put on. I dedicate this book to them. They are American heroes. I also dedicate this book to the memory of Colonel Young Oak Kim, a man who never failed on the field of battle. Last, but never least, I dedicate this book to my wife, Pamella, who tolerated and supported the countless hours I spent trying to tell this story.


prologue

April 1998

I

t wasn’t a memory that came often. Like all things trapped in the recesses of an aging mind, small things—smells, the air, the place— pulled fragmented images to the present and left them there to bring back emotions of the past. For the old man this day, it was the time of year and the blast of cold air blowing in his face. He shivered briefly as his mind’s eye held the image before him. The air hung heavy with the damp of ending winter. Moving quickly down the muddy road the soldiers, his soldiers, tugged their fatigue jackets close as the air rushing past their transport vehicles chilled them even more. He was their sergeant. He pulled his collar up against his face. It was cold but nothing like it had been in the mountains of France. He had never been as cold as that French winter. The new men, the replacements, complained about weather he would once have been grateful for. The new men knew nothing of war. The veterans like him wanted nothing more of war. His mind drifted to thoughts of his family. Soon, maybe, he might rejoin them. He had given that thought up as the war with Germany pulled him through days and months and years. Maybe it would be over soon. Everyone said it, but he knew that was mostly because everyone wanted to believe it. He held up his arm to halt the column. The air smelled different. At first the men looked at one another, catching only the acrid hint of diesel exhaust from the trucks, the oily miasma penetrating their nostrils. There was something different—a tincture of decay settling over them. Through the trees he saw a drifting smudge of smoke slowly spreading, like the last breath of a fire. Certainly, he had seen enough of the detritus of


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war, the sounds of battle and the consequences of destruction, but there had been no shelling for days. The German army was in full retreat. There were so many enemy soldiers surrendering that he had started taking their weapons and pointing them down the road to the main column. The war was already becoming something that he could see an end to, an end that he had made it to. There was a time when he had given up hoping to make it and had lived each new day with resignation at what he would face and acceptance of what he had faced. His driver, a young Japanese American with eyes shaped just like his, waited for him to speak. Nobody questioned his leadership or his orders. He had been transferred into the unit, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, from the 442nd Regimental Combat team, the all-Japanese unit that had fought its way through Italy and France. From a combat infantry unit to an artillery unit, the faces were all the same—Japanese Americans with a sprinkling of Caucasian officers. That is what they had been at the beginning and that was what they were now, but nobody questioned their ability or their loyalty anymore. The 442nd had proved that in Italy at Salerno and Anzio, in France at Biffontaine, and at so many other nameless killing fields. He had nothing to prove. He didn’t talk about what he had seen. His face told it all. He told his driver to move slowly down the road toward the smoke. He had learned that in battle, you always move to the sound of the guns. If there was smoke, then maybe there was battle, but probably there was just the wreckage of battle. He sent scout teams ahead with orders to report back. They would move slowly until they knew what was in front of them. He could hear the murmur from the new men. He knew he would hear nothing from the veterans, who would just wait, having already learned that most of war is waiting and terror would come soon enough. As he approached direction of his scouts he saw a wire enclosure with the gate open. One of the men had used his carbine to shoot off the chain that held it closed. What he saw were ghosts wandering aimlessly through what was left of a military camp. The smell was stronger, almost stifling. He had smelled it before. Death had settled here. What he saw were survivors, if they could be called survivors. It was hard to tell the difference between them and the bodies scattering ground smudged with patches of dirty snow. He looked at the people moving toward them, recoiling reflexively at the sight. They looked like skeletons with skin stretched over bones, clothes hanging on them like rags drying in the sun. xii


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He turned to the scout who walked up to the jeep and said, “They say this is a prison camp. They say they’re Jews. They want to know why Japanese have come.” He had heard of these places, death camps for Germany’s reviled and unwanted. He got out of the jeep and walked forward through the gate, moving away from clawlike hands that reached for him, the voices a garble of words he didn’t need to recognize. He knew the sound. He turned to his driver. “Get the Captain. Tell him we need doctors. We need food. Tell him—tell him to come.” He didn’t know what else to say. He looked at the wire fence and the guard towers. He had seen those before, too. “And tell them we’re American soldiers.” His mind slowly drifted back from the memory. Isamu Miyaki could feel the weight of each of his seventy-three years. Every year pressing down more heavily than the one before. He settled back into the softness of the leather car seat, savoring the moment and the luxury of the air conditioning blowing cold air on him, even as it stirred memories of the past. Today he rode here in a Cadillac. The first time was on an old school bus, when President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese on the West Coast into detention centers. As he looked back on it now he was amazed at how peacefully they had gone, obedience to authority ingrained in them, convinced that their government would do what was right, until they saw the guard towers, and the guns of their guards closing them inside of the wire walls of Manzanar. He braced himself for what lay ahead. He knew the memories would come back again. That was part of why he came and part of why he wished he’d stayed home. He breathed in the filtered air of the luxury sedan one more time and reached for the door. The dragon’s breath of Manzanar touched his face. The old man drew back from the sudden change in temperature. It’s not the same, and then again, it is. Still, the heat of the high desert felt different to him now— age, perhaps. As a boy he didn’t mind the spring heat. He looked forward to its relief from the cold winters of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Those times when the fog bathed the farm in gray mist and the workers were merely shadows with voices. The farm had been his home. It still was. But this place had been home, too. xiii


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Each year, on the last Saturday of April, they gathered in remembrance at Manzanar. Men and women bowed with age. Middle-aged children guiding elderly parents to the gathering place. Small children riddled with impatience—no rides, nothing to see except an empty place. Nothing to listen to but the voices of the old, or the whispers in the wind of the dead. “The young need to see,” he had told his grandson. “The young need to carry our memories. Someday, you’ll understand.” The old man accepted his grandson’s impatience. It didn’t seem so long ago that he had been just as impatient with the murmuring of old men. Manzanar. The fences were long gone to rust, but to Isamu Miyaki it was still a place with walls of wire. Walls you could see through but could not walk past, except with permission. Barbed wire binding the alkaline dirt where he and others like him were free to stay, but not free to leave. Immigrant parents and American citizen children herded together and driven from their homes with nothing except what they could carry inside the wire walls. He walked out along the few fence posts still standing, the last sentinels of his days here, dried out in the sun, the sap long since turned to dust. Just like old men. He remembered the dust. It still filled the air. It tasted the same. He wondered if it was the same soil he had shaken off fifty years ago. He remembered the words from walks to the cemetery, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Always the dust and always the wind—hot in the summer, cold in the winter. The seasons of Manzanar change, the dust of Manzanar endures. There was little left now, just a few buildings, not even the tower. Manzanar—“apple orchard” in Spanish—just down the road from Independence, California. The irony of that name still touched him. For Isamu, Manzanar would always remain the place where he arrived as a boy and left to become a man, him and so many others. Some now like him, old men, and others long returned to dust. Still, Freddy always said it was better than Arkansas. His friends were sent to the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas, while his family was sent here. It made it worse to be torn from old friends. His mind drew back for a moment to days long past. There it was, the sentry house. It looked smaller now and less forbidding. There, where the guard tower xiv


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once stood. Gone were the machine guns and sentries—nothing now but shadows that could no longer shake him in the night. Isamu walked slowly through empty dirt streets now marked only by the stone foundations of buildings long lost to the wind and the sun. He looked across the ground that no longer held a sign or landmark. Once we built a park right over there. The earth still held the outlines of the ponds so carefully tended, their beauty once a respite from the parching sun and wind, now only dry depressions in the ground gathering puddles of muddy water from infrequent rain. He paused silently. And there, there were the stones lying quietly in the earth marking the passing of those who would never leave this place. Isamu turned his gaze back to the edges of Manzanar. Gone was the barbed wire. Gone too was the flapping tar paper that covered the walls of his house, Barracks Ten, room three. One room to share with his parents and his brother. He tasted the dust in his throat. He felt it rise up. He swallowed hard and looked down at his feet. Still the same dust. Still the same taste. Isamu turned to his son Fred, named after his childhood friend, and pointed. “There—there is where I played ball. Me, Akiro, Tom, all of us. There is the place.” Fred led his father slowly across the road to the empty lot. To a player it was still a ball field. Isamu imagined his son only saw dust, rocks, and weeds. There were no baselines drawn, no bases, no mound. Very little grew where his feet had once pounded to each base, sliding to safety and rising to sweep the dust from his pants. They had pressed the ground rock hard with their base running, and the earth seemed to retain its memory of those days. Maybe he and his friends had beaten the ground into submission. To him it was still a ball field, waiting for another game. Well, my friends who have made life’s final journey before me, do you still play? The image startled him. Perhaps they were playing here now, he thought, as he stepped off what once had been a baseline. Someday soon he would know. Certainly in the next life he would return to the days of summer and not the hills of Italy, or the forests of France, or the ravaged land of a vanquished enemy. Fred’s son, Matthew, called out, “Grandpa, catch the ball. Catch the xv


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ball.� He looked around but saw nothing through his eyes except blurred motion. His eyes were watering. It must be the wind. And the dust. He could hear his grandson calling to him even as his mind began to drift back to the voices of his youth. Standing perfectly still, he could hear them even now.

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PART

I


chapter

1

June, 1941 Calwa, California

“I

samu, catch the ball. Come on, we don’t have much time. My dad’ll kill me if I’m late to the store again.” The impatient tone of Freddy’s voice grated on Isamu as he responded. “Call me Sammy! You know I like that better than Isamu.” Both Freddy and Mickey laughed. Freddy grinned. “Better not let your father hear you say that.” “Yeah, at least your father named you Fred.” “That’s true, but your middle name isn’t Clarence.” Sammy laughed. It was true. Some names sounded better in Japanese. Mickey stood off to the side, waiting for the other two to finish their exchange. “Hey, you two going to play ball or gripe about your names?” “Take it easy, Mik-i-o.” Sammy drew out Mickey’s full name and smiled at his friend. Mickey was the oldest and had just graduated. The other two were still in high school. All three would have looked alike to the casual observer. Dark from the summer sun, baseball caps pulled low over eyes slitted by heritage and the force of the sun. If not for their eyes, they would have looked no different from other boys in the central San Joaquin Valley of California, discarding their shirts at the first opportunity to play ball in the amber light of the late afternoon. All three were of Japanese descent and American by nativity. Ordinary boys playing the American pastime at every opportunity, stealing as many moments as possible away from their chores. The three young men threw the ball back and forth in the perpetual game of catch they had been playing since they were little. Neither of the


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younger two was very tall for their seventeen years, but neither came from very tall parents. It was a matter of concern to both of them. Sammy was slim and bronzed from work outdoors. His black hair was short because of the summer heat, easier to care for with his baseball cap constantly on his head. Freddy was a little taller and just as dark. Mickey was the tallest at about five foot six. He was also the most muscular, having worked on his father’s farm and its row crops. Mickey was not an athlete. He played for love of the game and the love of his friends. For him, that was enough. Baseball was their first love. It held everything: excitement, physical activity, and challenge. There were few times when one of them didn’t have a baseball or a glove nearby. Sammy loved the feel of the ball in his glove. Left hand curling around the ball and pulling it into the soft, worn leather, reaching with his right hand and throwing in one fluid motion. He knew he was good, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to be great. Freddy was always a half-step off of his friend’s pace. For him, baseball was a passion but not a destination. Sammy wanted to play ball for a major league team, but Freddy and Mickey just wanted to play. It had been that way since they could remember. Mickey was still trying to figure out what was going to happen in his life. Since graduation he had been more quiet than usual. Sammy turned to his two friends, “Freddy, have you decided on next year? Where you’re going to go after we graduate?” “I guess I’ll go to Fresno Junior College. Dad thinks I should keep on in school and maybe be a doctor or a lawyer. And I have a better chance of making the ball team there than at Fresno State.” Sammy snorted. “You? A doctor? You get sick cleaning fish.” Freddy’s face reddened a bit. “Well, at least I can catch fish. What are you going to do?” “Same thing, go to Fresno JC and play ball. Then I’ll decide. Coach says I can make the team. All I know is I’m not going to be a farmer.” The mention of making the Junior College team took Freddy by surprise. “Coach didn’t say anything to me about making the team.” His face showed the realization that Coach’s silence spoke volumes. “Don’t worry,” Sammy said, catching the uncertainty on his friend’s face, “if I make it, you’ll make it.” Mickey watched silently. Sammy and Freddy had been talking about the same thing all summer. Their senior year hadn’t even started yet, and 4


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it seemed strange to them to make decisions about what they were going to do beyond that. Freddy changed the subject. “You think DiMaggio is going to be able to keep up his hitting streak?” Joe DiMaggio had hit in over thirty straight games for the New York Yankees, and his streak was an object of national obsession. Sammy shrugged. “I think the Clipper will hit fifty or sixty games, you watch.” Freddy snickered. “Yeah, sure. Nobody can get a hit every game.” Sammy just laughed. “You watch. He can do it. We have a few more minutes. Let’s work on grounders. You need a lot more practice if you’re going to make the team.” Sammy looked over at Mickey. His friend had been fairly quiet, even for him. “What are you going to do now that you’ve graduated? You planning to go to JC?” Even though Mickey was a year older than the other two, the three had been inseparable. Mickey held the ball in his glove and toed the soft dirt. His face lost its boyish lines for just a moment, reminding Sammy of his father. Mickey looked down at the ground and then turned his face away before answering. His voice was quiet but firm. “I’m going to volunteer for the draft.” He looked back at his two friends, waiting. This was not something he had discussed with them. Neither boy said anything for a moment. Keeping secrets was not something they had often done. Sammy waited for Mickey to say something more, but Mickey kept staring at them, his face expressionless. The silence filled the empty space of the makeshift baseball field. Sammy finally broke the awkward quiet. “You’re kidding, right?” The draft had been put into effect in the last two years, but it wasn’t something Sammy or Freddy thought about much. They were still in school. Sammy twisted his glove with his right hand. He overheard some of the teachers at school talking about war. His father talked about war in hushed tones with his mother. But he didn’t think about war. He was going to be a senior. Mickey shook his head in that way that his two friends recognized from years of being together. The decision was made. “I got reclassified 1-A. I’ve been thinking about what I want to do. I know Dad wants me 5


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to help with the farm. I just don’t want to spend my time hoeing and digging up onions and pulling off tomato worms. I talked to the guy at selective service and asked if I could just go now and they said okay. Besides, it’s only for a year. It’ll be something different.” He turned his face away from his friends and looked off at the brown hills of the coastal range, cut sharp against the sun. “Different than here, anyway.” Mickey looked at his friends and suddenly said, “I’ll see you guys later.” He turned and started walking in the direction of his family’s truck farm. Sammy and Freddy tossed the ball back and forth, each waiting for the other to say something. Nobody talked and they fell into the silent rhythm of catch. But the thought of Mickey’s decision affected both of them. They had always been together. They had always been here. It never occurred to either of them that someday their lives would be different. Both boys couldn’t help feeling a tinge of resentment. Mickey was changing their lives. Unconsciously each of them began to throw the ball harder, the thudding of the ball into their gloves filling the uncharacteristic silence between them. The long light of the summer hid the time. Neither boy paid any attention to the hills of the coastal range to the west, their color shading from brown to purple in the late afternoon. To the east the foothills stepped up to the Sierra Nevada range where, even in the summer, some caps of snow could still be seen. The heat of the great Central Valley of California did not begin to wane until after dusk and even then, the warmth rose up from the valley floor like an oven cooling. Calwa wasn’t a big town. Sammy knew it wasn’t really a town, more of a place. But it was next to Fresno, the city, so at least they could go to the movies. Sammy’s father, Shig, didn’t like movies very much. Sammy guessed it was because it took him time to form his words in English and he was slow to speak, ensuring his words were correct. Words spoken quickly were difficult for him to follow. Shig was Issei, first generation. Sammy was Nisei, second generation. Born and raised here in Calwa. An American. An American who played baseball. Someday I’ll be like “Joltin Joe” DiMaggio. They’ll call out my name—and I’ll be Sammy Miyaki—feared by pitchers everywhere. He just hoped he would outgrow his father’s five foot three stature. His father always said, 6


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“More rice.” But somehow Sammy didn’t think that was going to do it. Freddy’s impatient voice disrupted his daydream. “Sammy, the ball! Come on.” Sammy whipped the ball, skipping it across the rough ground. It popped up at the last moment and caught Freddy square in the lip. “Sorry, Freddy.” Next time Freddy would remember to move to the ball. “Iron Man” Gehrig always moved to the ball. “Let’s go home. Maybe tonight we can catch frogs by the ditch.” Freddy just grunted, his lip already starting to swell. “My mom’s going to kill me. We’re having our picture taken tomorrow.” “It’ll go with your fat head.” Freddy just grunted again. “Maybe we need to look like twins.” The threat was empty. Sammy knew Freddy wouldn’t stay mad. He never did. Anyway, the lowering sun made it difficult to see the ball. Sammy picked up his shirt, the signal that it was time to start for home. The grape picking would start early in the morning and Sammy’s father would expect him to work. “There is honor in work,” his father said. His father looked at everything in terms of honor—even baseball. Somehow Sammy couldn’t see the connection between picking grapes and baseball, but he wasn’t going to spend time thinking about it. Picking grapes was work. Baseball, well, that was something else.

Sammy walked down the dirt road that separated the main house of the ranch owner, Mr. Bagdasarian, from the home of the ranch manager, his father. The rows of grapevines pushed up against the soft edges of the dirt path. Dark green leaves hung over the wire trellis strung between wooden stakes, next to gnarled grape stumps that lined the dusty roadway. The smell of the heavy fruit held the air, closing out everything else. Sammy brushed at the gnats that swirled around his head. He kept thinking about Mickey leaving. He didn’t want things to be different. He wanted to do something else, too. He inhaled the heavy sweet odor. He was sure of one thing. He didn’t want to be a farmer. He didn’t know what he wanted, but at least he knew that. Sammy got home just as his mother, Setsuko, was looking through 7


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the kitchen window. He could see his father watering her roses in the yard. His father never seemed to stop working, moving from task to task. Sammy could feel the pride his father gained from a hard day’s work and harbored a deep respect for his father’s commitment to the farm. He stood for a moment at the edge of the dirt roadway that led to their yard and watched his father tend to the roses. Sammy had often thought that his father put as much care into keeping up the beauty of the roses as he did to the crops in the field. To his father, all growing things brought something to the quality of life. Sammy felt a mixture of emotions as he watched. It wasn’t sadness. Perhaps regret that he couldn’t feel what his father and brother felt for the land. To him it was little more than dirt, but he dared not share that thought. Somehow, he suspected his father knew. Certainly, his mother did. “Isamu, are you ready for dinner?” His mother’s soft voice came through the kitchen window screen. She was never loud or abrupt, always soft in voice and manner. Sammy’s father had the gruffness of a farmer. The calluses on his hands and crusted skin were those of a man long accustomed to working in the weather and sun. Yet Setsuko had the softness of a flower. To Sammy, his parents had always seemed like a gnarled vine with a rose growing next to it: His father strong to the soil, pulling seasons into the twists of his character, his mother with scents and petals. Setsuko had been a “picture bride.” His father had written home to find a wife, and his family arranged to send Setsuko after an exchange of photographs. Setsuko came to America to meet her husband for the first time a few days before she married him. To Sammy, it was a mystery how a man could marry a woman he had only seen in a picture. “Isamu, have you washed for dinner?” His father’s voice was disapproving. He knew Sammy had been out playing ball. It was difficult for him to reconcile his son’s ball-playing with his own commitment to work. Shig took some pride in Sammy’s talent on the ball field, but he had difficulty with anything that did not resemble work. “I’ll be ready in a minute, Pop.” His father took a swipe at him which Sammy easily avoided. His father did not like to be called “Pop.” He preferred otosan, or Papa, but Sammy liked to tease him. “You have been playing ball with Freddy and Mikio?” “We were just doing a little practicing. Freddy needed to work on his grounders so he’ll be ready when we start school.” 8


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Shig took off his hat and wiped his forehead, the line of the brim marking the sunburned skin from the rest of his face. He sucked air through his teeth. It was a sound he made when he heard something he questioned. “So you were doing it for Freddy and not for Isamu?” “Maybe a little of both, Papa.” He changed the subject. “Did you know that Mickey is joining the Army?” Sammy’s father turned and looked at his son, his face suddenly very serious. “I think there will be lots of boys going in the Army. I’m sure his father will talk to him.” “No, I mean he’s going in the Army now. I think he wants to get away from the farm. But I can’t believe he’s going so soon.” Shig sighed deeply. “Maybe Mikio decided that he has to make a choice.” Shig paused, his eyes showing that he understood what his son might be thinking. “You don’t have such a choice. You stay in school. That is what you need to do to help the family. Wash for dinner now, there will be much to do tomorrow and you must go to bed early.” “I want to listen to The Shadow on the radio. Will that be all right?” “Hai.” Sammy smiled, a small victory. Maybe he could get his father to let him listen to Amos and Andy. Sammy removed his shoes before entering the house. Even in America, the family retained the custom of removing their shoes and placing slippers on their feet. Sammy walked into the kitchen to greet his grandmother, who waited at the kitchen table. “Obasan, grandmother, are you well?” It was a ritual they practiced. His grandmother always responded the same way. Her words tumbled out in the jumble of what, for her, passed for English. “As well to do at my age.” He bowed to her in respect and waited for her smile. Obasan reached out for his face and rubbed his cheek. Her skin had become thin, filled with blue veins. Her hand felt like tissue touching his face. She spoke very little. Her days were spent by the furnace or in the sun, depending on the season. In a Japanese household, even though it was his mother’s home, the mother-in-law was given the respect as the head of the home. Setsuko always treated Obasan with great deference. She was a quiet, gentle soul, much loved by his mother and the rest of the family. Setsuko moved around the kitchen, murmuring to no one in particular. As always, his father sat at the head of the table. The first portion 9


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of food was given to his grandmother. Steam continued to rise from the bowl of rice as each member of the family took their share. While Sammy appreciated the traditional foods prepared by his mother, he also appreciated more American dishes. Tonight, his mother laid the platter of golden fried chicken on the table with a flourish. As always, grandmother took the leg.

It was still dark outside as Sammy chewed on a cold ball of rice, walking with his brother out to the field, beginning the ritual of turning grapes into raisins. His older brother, Toshio, walked next to him, smiling. Toshi looked forward to this day. He was a farmer. That was what he wanted to be. The early morning still held some of the coolness of night, but not much. Even in the dark, the earth had not lost its heat. Soon the sun would take the last measure of comfort from the air, just as the heat would slowly take the last measure of energy from the field workers. To Sammy, it was hard and dirty work. The only satisfaction he discovered came at the end of the day, when it was over. The wooden trays were stacked near the heavy posts at the end of each row of vines, ready for their load of grapes. The pickers would lay the bunches on the tray to start the drying process. Row after row of grapes lying on trays, sitting on the smoothed ground. The flashing curved knives of the pickers moved down the rows. They crouched beneath the vines, where the humidity was trapped under the canopy of grape leaves. Heavy clusters of grapes were quickly cut from curled wood cane stems, winding along the wire trellis. It was hot, hard work and the workers had to move quickly. They piled the bunches into pans and then arranged them on the trays, their fingers moving rapidly. It was not a neat process, as they were paid by the tray His father was the foreman for Aram Bagdasarian, who owned the ranch. While Mr. Bagdasarian treated Shig like family, it grated at Sammy that his father couldn’t own his own land. Mr. Bagdasarian said that many other Armenians could not buy a house in some parts of Fresno, just as Sammy’s father could not own land. It was the law. Someday I’ll buy my father land, Sammy thought, but I won’t carry trays, I’ll carry a bat. He swung the trays in an arc and heard his brother’s laughter as they 10


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scattered. Sammy hurried to pick up the trays and moved down the row. He could smell the bleeding stems as the pickers sliced the grape clusters from the vine. “Look for the brown in the stem,” his father would say, pointing to green bunches picked by anxious and careless pickers. The brown meant sugar and sugar meant good raisins. Sammy watched the workers, mostly Mexicans with some sun-reddened white laborers—all with their children working alongside them. Sammy remembered the sting of his father’s hand when he referred to the sunburned pickers as Okies. “Do not dishonor working men. Do you like it when they call us Japs?” The lesson remained after the sting was gone. The workers stopped at noon. Numerous clusters of friends or families quickly gathered into groups. They built small fires, using old grape stumps and pruned canes. Soon, Sammy smelled the tortillas and the cooking meat. Sammy could hear the lilt of Spanish and the drawl of the women from Oklahoma. It reminded him of the holidays when his aunts would work in the kitchen with his mother, Setsuko, Japanese mixing with English, a sound that meant something good to eat was on its way. José Duran called out to Sammy to join him for lunch. José was lean and tall, with a slender build that belied his strength. His body was hard from working in the fields. José was popular with just about everybody at school. The handsome young man didn’t have to work at it very hard. His quick smile, easy going manner, and exceptional physical ability made him a natural leader. Or least as much of a leader as he could be. The son of a farm worker, even if he was the best pitcher on the baseball team, was still a farm worker. The Durans worked as field laborers, helping with the watering, discing, and picking. They lived in a worker’s shed on the ranch. It was built onto the equipment shed, unpainted boards and a rusting metal roof, one room, only fifteen by fifteen feet. Sammy always felt a special warmth when he was welcomed inside his friend’s home. The room had a scent. He could smell the chilies hanging from the nails in the walls, spices that were different than those his mother used, but still made him hungry. The smell of chilies and frying meat filled the air around the Duran family. Sammy moved into the group and José’s mother handed him a tortilla, just as she did to her son. José ate quickly. If they hurried, he and Sammy could play a little catch before they had to go back to work. 11


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José was a pitcher with a fastball that could crack your hand. He loved to throw hard. José turned to his friend. “I think we’re going to leave for Texas this winter. I have an uncle there who has some land. My dad wants to plow his own fields. Maybe I can finish a school year.” He said it in a matter of fact way, even though it would uproot him from his life. Sammy was startled. “You’re leaving?” First Mickey and now José. “What about school?” José looked at Sammy. “If I can go to school, I will. My family needs me.” José saw the confusion in Sammy’s face. “I don’t have a choice.” He said it with a conviction that left no room for more questions. José accepted the responsibility of his family, and he put that before anything else. Sammy waited quietly while José reached into a bag and pulled out his glove. José grinned. “Let’s play.” As Sammy and José walked away from the resting workers, they both watched Carmen, José’s sister, amble over to a shade tree by the side of the ditch carrying water to the ranch. A young man stood waiting for her. Sack Pritch had been working on getting Carmen to go out with him for quite a while. José’s father did not approve of Carmen seeing a white boy, even an Okie, so they were trying to be discrete. Sammy and José watched Sack try to talk to Carmen. It was like watching a slow dance where nobody touched. Sack kept shuffling his feet and moving around. Carmen stood and slowly swayed. Her honey-colored skin and black hair contrasted with the ruddy sunburn and auburn hair of the young man near her. Every time Sack reached for her hand she pulled it away, knowing her father was watching. José laughed and whispered to Sammy, “My father will chase her with a switch if she lets Sack touch her. But I’ve seen them at night by the ditch.” Sammy remembered Sack’s oft-told story of how he got his name. “Well, my real name’s Billy, but when I was born they put me in a flour sack to keep me warm. Every time they moved me they grabbed hold of the sack. Pretty soon I just became Sack.” The Pritches—Frank, Mae, and Sack—followed the crops and moved up and down the Central Valley, and sometimes up to Oregon and Washington when the apples were ready for picking. But they always came back to Bagdasarian’s farm to lay the grapes on the trays. 12


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Sack said he was going to do something different, maybe join the Navy. “No more grape pickin’ for me, no sir. I’m going to be a sailor and go everywhere.” Sack wasn’t the only one Sammy heard talk of dreams and different places, but most of the time they came back the next year, looking older and harder. Sammy walked down the rows, sweat dripping down his face, caking into muddy rivulets on his cheeks. Soon the sun would bake him browner. Just like the grapes.

Freddy rubbed his lip. It was still sore from the day before and he hadn’t received any sympathy from his parents. His mother was upset about the family picture. His father said that he shamed the family by his lack of consideration. It was only a picture, but that wasn’t a suitable answer to any of them. Mas and Satomi Shiraga were people who lived on a schedule. Their store, M and S Grocery, was in the center of Calwa. There were a few other businesses in the area—a garage that had been there so long the words on its sign were baked off by the sun, a pharmacy operated by the only Chinese family in Calwa, and a hardware store. It was all the people in the area needed. Freddy picked up the broom from behind the counter. He couldn’t understand why the old building had to be swept twice a day, inside and out. His father said that keeping the store clean was an honorable thing. Freddy shook his head. What did honor have to do with something nobody would see? He carried the dustpan outside and down the creaking wooden steps. The whole store sagged just a bit, showing its age. Wood cleaned by the wash of rain and dried by countless summer suns. Boards stretched tight, pulling against nails that left dark stains where the iron bled into the grain. It was an old building warming itself and everyone inside with the summer heat. Freddy walked over to the counters, bending under the weight of summer fruit: grapes and watermelons, peaches and plums. Each day the Machado family brought in fruit from the local farms. This was the way of things. People brought in food for Mas to sell and he either paid them 13


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cash or traded with them for food and other supplies. Mas said it was a good way to live. Each person working to help the other while at the same time helping themselves. Freddy watched his father clean the counter as his mother walked in from the back of the store. Satomi always seemed to float across the floor, never far from her husband or her children. They were her life, all that she wanted. She and Mas met when he first came to Calwa. She was just fifteen and he was twenty. Mas had come to Satomi’s father’s farm to buy fruit. Mas often said he saw her and spoke to her father that very day. Mas didn’t order Satomi to do anything, never even asked. She just knew. Freddy’s parents simply were part of each other in everything they did. Satomi worked in the area behind the counter. She carefully cleaned the glass of the display case and orbited her family while they worked together. There was a harmony to her movements. While Freddy did not really think of his mother as beautiful, he could sense that there was something about her that was beautiful, the center of the family around which their life revolved. Freddy’s sister Betty was filling the candy jars on the counter. Under their father’s watchful eye it was hard to sneak a piece, but Betty always seemed to get something. Fifteen and just beginning to get looks from the boys at church, she would walk slowly by the boys at school as if they didn’t exist, but her eyes were always turned to the side to see if they watched. And she always made sure she was around when Sammy came by. Freddy knew Sammy had been watching her, just like he had been watching Rose Hayashi, Mickey’s sister. Freddy walked out back to clean the truck. The 1923 Ford flatbed was his father’s pride and joy. Already fifteen years old when his father bought it, the sides of the truck bed were boards worn smooth from the loads of many years. He ran his hand over the fender. The black paint was almost blue in the sun, in some places so thin that it barely tinted the metal beneath. But it was clean, and sometimes his father let him drive it around the neighborhood As Freddy swept the bed of the truck, Mr. Machado drove up with a load of boxes, pulled up to the side of the store, and got out of his truck. Short and powerfully built, he looked like a bull pushing at the boxes. He waved Freddy over to help. The smell of fruit mixed with the dusty smell of the tomatoes. “Right out of field, Freddy.” His Portuguese accent still 14


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thickly covered his English. When his father and Mr. Machado would get together at the end of the day and have a few beers or some sake, it was hard to understand either of them. His father came out of the store to greet his friend. “Hola, Luis.” Freddy grimaced at his father’s effort at Portuguese with a Japanese accent. He waited for what he knew was coming. “Konnichi wa, my friend, I bring peaches. Fresh picked.” Mr. Machado’s Portuguese accented Japanese was just as bad. It didn’t really matter since they both knew what the other was trying to say. Besides, Mas said the effort meant more than the result. They were both trying to respect the other’s heritage. Satomi came out of the store to greet Mr. Machado and cast her own critical eye on his fruits and vegetables. She was the one who would be stacking the fruit in displays and she wanted the fruit to be perfect. She made a point of picking out a peach with some bruising on the skin, then put it back with a show of deliberation rather than saying anything. “Hello, Mr. Machado. How is Maria?” “Hello, missus—my Maria is fine. She will be by later today.” Satomi went back into the store. She would not criticize the fruit or vegetables in front of either man. Her husband would lose face if his wife asserted herself in front of his friend, especially while they were doing business. She only wanted to make a point and be sure her husband was reminded of it. Mas eyed the tomatoes and squeezed a few on top. “Peaches are good sellers, but the tomatoes look a little green.” “Mas, Mas, I pick the best for you.” Freddy’s father laughed. This was part of the trading and he looked forward to it. Luis was a good friend and they always made a fair agreement. Why would they not? After all, tomorrow they would trade again. Both men lifted boxes off Luis’ truck, talking about the heat and engaging in whatever gossip they had heard during the day from their customers. Mas had heard about the Hayashi boy from Freddy. He knew Luis stopped at Jin’s, Mikio’s father, to get tomatoes and onions. “Mikio is going into the Army, I hear. Did Jin say anything?” Luis pushed a box towards Mas and stopped. Mas caught his change in expression. Suddenly Mas could see the concern in Luis’ eyes. His friend pulled a box of tomatoes off the truck and sat it heavily on the ground. 15


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Luis spoke slowly. “Everybody say that war is coming. Everybody say that Japan wants war with America. Germans already at war. People dying young and old. I don’t want no war. I don’t want our boys to be soldiers.” Mas looked down at the tomatoes. What Luis said worried him, too. He left Hiroshima as a young man to make a new way in life. At home he would be working as a peasant. In America he had respect. But there was so much talk now, and when he came around people lowered their voices. He could hear them talking about “the Japs” and “the Krauts.” Even Mr. Schmidt talked about the Krauts like he wasn’t German. The talk was bad. And it was getting worse. The two men stood silently with their thoughts for a moment. Then both of them pulled fiercely at the boxes and said no more. War could not come. It was too painful to consider.

16


chapter

2

August, 1941 Fort Ord, Monterey, California

T

he Pacific Ocean slapped the beach dunes at Fort Ord, snug against the coast of Monterey, California. The fort looked more like a resort than a military installation until the view filled in with soldiers running along the dunes in double time, rifles against their chests. It had only been active for a few months when Pvt. Young Oak Kim arrived from his induction center at Fort MacArthur, near San Pedro and the Los Angeles harbor. In fact, his group of recruits were the first to sweep out the new barracks. Basic training hadn’t been so bad. Kim enjoyed the challenge. It was much different than what he had experienced growing up in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles, better known as Little Italy. At first he felt the excitement of a new adventure, being an American soldier. Now he chafed against boredom. He had won promotion from private to corporal, but Kim still felt a restless dissatisfaction. There was a certain sameness to it now: fog in the early morning, sun in the early afternoon and chill in the evening. Still, he couldn’t argue with the scenery. Even though he had grown up within several miles of the ocean, he couldn’t see it every day. Kim never tired of the ocean. He only tired of the boredom. Compact, slender and of Korean descent, Kim sat in the back of the motor pool area reading the latest letter from Ida, his high school sweetheart. She was studying at the University of Southern California to be a


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nurse. As soon as his time in the Army was over he planned to marry her, but for now he was finishing his year in the service. He idly batted away a fly as he contemplated the dismantled truck in front of him. He didn’t want to be a mechanic and he didn’t want to be in the motor pool, but it was better than where he started. It was hard to forget that they first wanted to make him a cook. Kim had worked for a while in his father’s store in Los Angeles and then for a Chinese meat dealer, where he helped butcher cattle. All things considered, he figured taking apart a truck wasn’t much different. He couldn’t help but consider the irony of being drafted. When he had tried to volunteer back in 1939, he had been turned away because he was Asian. Kim remembered going in to enlist and the recruiting sergeant who looked him over and laughed. “Boy, the army don’t need no Koreans or China boys. Now if you was Filipino, that’d be different. Them generals and admirals always need good mess stewards. Don’t need no Koreans. You go on home now and work in the store.” But now with the draft they were taking everybody, including him. The incident left a bad taste in his mouth. He felt more sadness than anger at his treatment. He didn’t like feeling different. He was an American, but not a good enough American to be a soldier until they started taking everybody. Kim received his draft notice in January. He was happy just to be in the Army and out of the butcher shop. The first day he put on his uniform he felt like everybody else. He looked like everybody else. But right after basic training he ran into Sgt. “Bull” Durham. As far as Sergeant Durham was concerned, the Army didn’t have a place for Kim as a real soldier. He remembered what Durham told him, “You aren’t like the rest of us. You can be a cook, a clerk, or a mechanic.” It had taken him a moment to realize what “the rest of us” meant. But Kim wanted to be a soldier. He received the best score on the rifle range and was the top of his recruit class. It wasn’t in his nature to give up easily, especially when he thought he was right. “I already told you,” Durham repeated, “You’re going to be a mechanic. We already got enough cooks and clerks anyway.” Kim knew Durham didn’t think Asians could fight. All he wanted was a chance. But right now, all he was going to fight was a carburetor. He carefully folded his letter from Ida. He would read it again later. 18


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Durham walked into the motor pool area. Kim saw him out of the corner of his eye and stood up. “You busy?” It wasn’t really a question and Kim knew it. He looked up at the taller man. At only five foot seven, Kim looked up to many people. “What do you need, Sergeant?” Durham smiled, “We got a new load of recruits coming in on the bus around 2:00 p.m. I want you to take a truck and go pick em’ up. Let em’ know what a real soldier looks like.” Durham continued. “Bring them boys back to the training compound. I’ll be there waiting for ’em.’” Kim bit his lip rather than say anything. One of these days he and Durham were going to have to talk, but he knew it wasn’t going to be today. He went to get a truck ready. It was going to take a lot more than Durham to get to him. A memory of his mother came to him, causing him to smile. When Kim was twelve, he had done something that made his mother angry. He couldn’t remember now what it was, though he remembered that he deserved to be punished. His mother cut several switches off the tree in the yard and told him to stand on a stool. He rolled his pant legs up while she switched him. He could still remember jumping up and down on the stool, but he wouldn’t cry. After she had broken all the switches, his mother fell to her knees and hugged his red legs. “You are either going to grow up to be a very famous man or you are going to end up in prison,” she said. It was the last spanking he got. He went over to the truck to make sure it was fueled up. As he walked away Durham called out to him. “Kim, when you get back I want you to come by my office, okay?” “Yes, Sergeant.” What did that asshole want now? He’d find out soon enough. He climbed into the seat of the truck and nursed the starter until the engine fired. It started pretty slow. He made a mental note to check it when he got back.

Mickey sat quietly on the bus looking at the empty countryside. He’d never been further from home than Fresno, which was now hours behind him. He’d never been on a train, either, but the excitement of that wore off quickly. There were no other Japanese on the bus and he was not used 19


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to feeling so alone. He had heard most of the young men talking about being in the Army but when he tried to strike up a conversation, he didn’t get much of a response. Finally, he gave up and decided to just look out the window. The train ride from Fresno to Stockton was not unpleasant but the further he got from home, the lonelier he began to feel. It would help if he saw a friendly face, one that looked like his. The countryside looked flat, just like home. The grass was dry and yellowed by the sun, except for some patches of green fields. Finally, the bus rose over some hills and dropped down into another flat area, where suddenly everything looked different. There was more green than he was used to. When they stopped the air was different, colder. Already the excitement of going in the Army was beginning to wear thin. He started to wonder what Sammy and Freddy were doing right now, playing ball probably. Same as he would be doing. Yesterday he had walked over to Sammy’s home. He was pulling trays from the stack near the end posts. Workers were busy moving down the rows, checking the drying grapes to see whether they were ready to be turned. The once green fruit was slowly withering in the summer heat, turning a brownish rose color. Mickey had seen the same thing every summer of his life. He tried to remember each detail, and was surprised that it seemed so hard. It was only yesterday. The heat rippled the air in the distance. The mountains surrounding the great Central Valley began their shimmery dance on the horizon. The air was clear and dry except under the vine foliage, humidity still trapped under the heavy canopy of leaves. The streaming sweat of the men showed on their backs as they bent over the wooden trays bunched with drying fruit, turning the browning grape clusters so they dried evenly. Sammy was just as sweat-stained as the others, just as brown. He yelled at his friend as he approached, scuffing the powdery dust of the roadway through the field. Sammy stopped pulling trays, eager for a respite from the tedium. “Mickey, what’s going on?” Sammy knew he seldom came over to the field unless there was news. “I’m leaving tomorrow. I wanted to let you know. I have to catch a bus in the morning and go to Monterey.” “What’s in Monterey?” “Some place called Fort Ord. That’s where I start training. At least it isn’t too far away. Look, I’ll write as soon as I can and let you know what 20


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it’s like. It’s right next to the ocean, so at least it won’t be as hot. I got to get back home. Everybody’s waiting. I just wanted to say goodbye.” Sammy remained strangely silent for him. His friend walked him part way back down the ranch road, puffs of dust rising from their heels. Sammy wiped his palms on his pants and stuck his hand out. “Good luck.” And that was it. Now he was on his own for the first time in his life. He couldn’t help but wonder if he would make a good soldier. Anyway, it would all be over in a year. Mickey began to idly munch on the pickled vegetables his mother packed for him as he watched the bus pull up to a gate. The soldier at the gate looked over the bus and waved it through. The bus stopped at a wooden building that appeared newly painted, tan in color with a green tar paper roof. The driver turned. “Okay, everybody off. This here’s Fort Ord and you boys is in the Army.” The boys shuffled off the bus and stepped down on the gravel in front of the building. Mickey could see a tall, lanky man watching them and a shorter Asian man standing by a truck. His first thought was one of relief. At least there would be some people here like him. All of a sudden his attention was drawn to the taller man who, when he spoke, sounded like a barking dog. “You men form a line. You’re in the Army now and you better get used to it. I ain’t got all day.” Mickey and the rest of the boys jostled to get into a semblance of a line. All the while the tall soldier kept eyeing them and yelling for them to hurry up. He took out a clipboard. “When I call your name, answer up.” He began yelling out, “ADAMS!” A short, heavyset blond boy said, “That’s me, sir.” “Boy, when I call your name you answer ‘here!’ You understand? And when you talk to me you say Sergeant! Understand?” Adams stammered as the sergeant barked at him. “UNDERSTAND?” He waited until Adams answered and then got right in his face. “I can’t hear you, Adams. You got a problem we need to know about, boy?” Finally, Adams got out an answer that seemed to mollify the sergeant. Mickey concluded that it wouldn’t really make a difference what Adams said. Whoever was first was going to be made an example. Name after name was called out while Mickey watched, concentrating on what 21


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seemed to be the wrong answers and what didn’t provoke any more attention than necessary. “Hashi!” The sergeant looked around and yelled again, “Hashi–Mike-o Hashi.” The sergeant looked directly at Mickey. “You Hashi?” Mickey answered, “I’m Mikio Hayashi, Sergeant.” The sergeant squinted his eyes and moved directly in front of Mickey. “What you say your name was, boy?” “Hayashi, Sergeant.” The sergeant rocked back and looked over Mickey’s slight frame. “Your name is what I say it is, Hashi. And when I call it you better answer. Understand?” Mickey decided that the only acceptable answer was “yes,” even though he couldn’t believe he was answering to the name of “Chopstick.” “Yes, Sergeant, I understand.” The sergeant looked at Mickey for a moment and then made a check on his clip board. “Johnson!” “Here, Sergeant.” The sergeant kept on going until he identified everybody in the line. The sergeant pointed in the direction of a truck. An Asian man in uniform was leaning against the door. “This here’s Corporal Kim. The first thing for you to know is he’s got two stripes on his sleeve and you ain’t got none. He’ll drive you to the reception area and tell you what to do. Get in the truck.” The sergeant spat on the ground, evidencing his in obvious disgust with the new recruits, and walked away. Mickey looked over at Corporal Kim and walked with the others to the truck as Kim dropped the tailgate. Kim smiled as the young men stumbled over each other, trying to get in the truck as quickly as possible. By the time Mickey got there, both bench seats were full and nobody was moving over to make room. Kim turned to him and said, “Get in the front with me.” Then he turned and got in the driver’s seat. Mickey climbed onto the passenger seat, grateful to not get yelled at. Mickey almost hit his head as the truck lurched into gear. Kim watched him out of the corner of his eye. “What’s your name?” “Hayashi, Mickey Hayashi.” Kim laughed. “Well you better get used to being called “Hashi,” because that’s what everybody is going to call you from now on.” 22


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Mickey grimaced. “I’m Corporal Young Oak Kim, by the way. I’d like to tell you the worst is over, but it’s not.” Mickey looked over at what seemed like a friendly face. “You Chinese?” Kim’s hooded eyelids narrowed even more as he answered, “Korean.” Mickey smiled, “Well it’s nice to see a friendly face.” Kim relaxed visibly and smiled back. “Yeah, I know how you feel.” Kim pulled the truck up near the recruit training compound but didn’t get out. He had been here before. He didn’t like it then and he didn’t like it now. All those drill sergeants yelling at boys who didn’t know where to go and couldn’t understand what the drill instructors were saying anyway. Eventually some of them would realize that if they just kept their mouth shut it would all be over with soon enough. He turned to Mikio. “Look, Hayashi, just do what you’re told. No matter what you do they aren’t going to let you think you got it right the first time. They need you and they can’t do much of anything to you. Just don’t talk back. I’ll see you around.” Kim stuck out his hand. Mickey nodded his head. “I understand. Thanks.” He turned and climbed out of the truck. The first thing he did was stumble and fall on top of a drill instructor. Kim shook his head and drove off. He could hear a sergeant yelling “Hashi! What the hell kind of name is ‘Hashi?’ You some kind of potato?” By the time Kim got back to the motor pool it was close to 5:00 p.m. He still had to check on the starter and go see Durham. He yawned. The starter could wait until tomorrow. There wasn’t that much to do anyway, so it would give him something to work on. Besides, seeing Durham would most likely put him in a foul mood. He fueled the truck and parked it inside the motor pool area. He walked over to the headquarters. When he walked in the company clerk looked up, smiled, and nodded his head towards Durham’s office. Obviously the clerk knew Kim was expected. His eyes showed a question, but the clerk just shrugged and told him to go on in. Kim knocked on the door and waited for Durham’s raspy voice. “Door’s open.” He walked through the door and saw Durham sitting behind his desk with a stack of paperwork. “Evening, Kim.” “Evening, Sergeant. You wanted to see me?” 23


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“Lock the door and take a seat.” Kim was unnerved at the sight of Durham smiling. The man didn’t smile much. Kim took a chair in front of the desk and waited for Durham to speak. “Look, Kim, maybe you and I haven’t gotten off on the right foot. It’s never been personal with me, you know. I just been around a long time and I know how the Army works. But maybe you and I can do things a little differently from now on—if you can you keep your mouth shut?” Kim turned his head slightly to the side and narrowed his eyes. “Yes, Sergeant, I can keep my mouth shut.” Durham pointed to the piles of paper in his box. “See this? I get piles of this every day. I got ten months to go until I got my twenty in and then I can retire. But I got a little problem. My eyes are going bad on me. Can’t see the paperwork anymore and I can’t do the reports I need to do. I need you to do the reports for me and I’ll sign ’em. If the Army finds out I can’t see well enough to do my job they’ll put me out to pasture, and I’ll lose my retirement. Whatta you say?” Kim didn’t give anything away by his expression, but he had to admit he was stunned. This was not what he expected. “Why me, Sergeant? You got a clerk out there.” Durham’s face momentarily flickered with discomfort. “If the clerk finds out then he’s gonna talk. I need somebody who’s gonna keep his mouth shut. I need somebody who I can depend on. I done most of my duty in Hawaii and there’s a couple things I learned over there. Asian people, well, when they give their word they keep it. It’s an honor thing with them, right? Well, I figure if you give me your word you’ll keep it.” Kim sat silently for a moment. Durham was asking for a favor. It was tempting to tell him to go to hell, but it also was an opportunity to gain the upper hand. He stared straight at Durham, dragging out the moment. “Okay, Sergeant, I’ll do it. When do we start?” He could see a look of gratitude on Durham’s face. “Kim, I appreciate this, I really do. I’ll figure out some way to repay you. I’ll show you how the reports need to be done and then I’ll sign ‘em. You just come by at the end of the day after the clerk’s gone.” “All right Sergeant.” “Thanks, Kim—and it was never personal, you know. It’s just the way things are in the Army.” Durham stuck out his hand and waited. Kim stood there for a moment. It may not have been personal for Durham, 24


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but it was personal for him. He stuck his hand out. Holding a grudge wasn’t going to get him anywhere. Better to be friendly with Durham than continue as enemies. “I’ll take care of it, Sergeant.” Kim walked out of the HQ and pulled his fatigue cap over his closecropped hair. That was part of the trouble with being near the ocean. It was great to look at, but the nights were cold. He walked back towards the barracks, listening to the crunch of gravel beneath his boots. He knew what Durham thought of him. But the Durhams of this little world were in charge, and he had to live with it. That didn’t mean he had to let them get inside his head. He was a good soldier. He was a better soldier than most of the men around him. He knew it and, he suspected, so did they. Maybe someday I’ll get my chance.

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3

September, 1941 Calwa, California

S

ammy walked down the dirt path from his home toward the main road and the bus stop a half-mile away, the sound of his new jeans chaffing against the inside of his legs. The long rows of vines had not yet begun to turn yellow. There had been no frost. The drying grapes were still on the trays, gathering in the last of the summer heat. It would be a late harvest. Soon they would be dry enough to pick up and place in the sweatboxes. The bunches that had been left hanging because they were too green to lay down for raisins had turned yellow, the grapes at the bottom beginning to turn dark and split. The dried raisins on the trays gave off a heavy sweet odor. The smell of the decaying fruit and the more subtle aroma of the browning raisins hung heavy over the rutted access road. Sammy brushed away the gnats that spun in the sunlight of the dirt road. The smell of the decaying fruit matched his mood. It was the first day of his senior year and he couldn’t seem to lift his spirits. For the first time in his life, the certainty of what each day would bring was gone. For as long as he could remember, there had been three of them. Sammy kicked at the dirt. Mickey’s decision had not just changed his own life. Some days he didn’t know whether to envy Mickey or resent him. He kicked another dirt clod. Everything was changing. More and more his parents spoke in whispers. More and more the men gathered reading the newspapers, talking about the Germans sweeping through Europe and the Japanese Empire marching through Burma and Singapore. Even in his own home Sammy could sense unease.


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His father listened to the radio reports from London and talked about their relatives in Japan. When Shig looked at his sons, it was clear he was worried. Sammy walked from the ranch and turned down the worn pavement of the main road that reached through every path in Calwa. The main street, he said to himself, the only real street. Everything else was just dirt roads going to where somebody had built something. The road had been roughened by the seasons more than the passage of vehicles. He looked at the pitted asphalt. The street seemed tired. Sammy looked up when he heard the noise of students. The bus stop was just a corner, near the pharmacy. Sammy was thinking about all the times spent waiting at the bus stop with Mickey when José caught up to him. “You still going to run for student president? I’ll help you put up signs and stuff ” The question distracted him from his effort to stay depressed. “Yeah, I’ve decided to do it. I guess Ferdie Diamico is going to run too. I haven’t heard of anybody else.” José grinned. “You’re going to win. Everybody likes you and Diamico is kind of a jerk.” “Ferdie isn’t so bad, he just doesn’t think before he talks.” “Well, I think he’s a jerk so I’ll get some of the other guys and we’ll put up signs and stuff, okay?” “Yeah, okay. I gotta make a speech at assembly at the end of the week, so let me know if you hear anything.” Sammy walked over to Freddy, who was already at the bus stop. “Can you believe we have to go back to school already?” It seemed like summer had only lasted a few short weeks and now it was over. Seeing Freddy started to change his mood. “Yeah, but this year we’re seniors. I can’t wait to work over the freshmen.” Both boys had spent a considerable portion of the summer thinking of things to do to the new kids. After all, it had been done to them and now it was their turn. Dutch Schmidt walked up as the boys were talking. Dutch was the biggest guy in the senior class and the center on the football team. But, as Freddy frequently pointed out, the guy had played too much without his helmet. 27


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Dutch moved close by. “How ya doing? I haven’t seen you guys since school let out. I spent the summer workin’ in the old man’s butcher shop. Cuttin’ meat is a good workout. I’m in great shape for football.” Dutch didn’t say anything to José, just kind of nodded in his direction. José nodded back. Dutch towered over Sammy and he reached out and grabbed the smaller boy and rubbed his head with his knuckles while Sammy protested, “Hey, Dutch, come on, lemme go.” The bigger boy laughed. “Seniors got to stick together, right. You find me some freshmen and I’ll make them squeal like pigs. They got to get used to it.” Freddy caught Dutch’s attention. “Hey, Dutch, Sammy’s going to run for student body president. What do you think?” “I think you should be taller than a freshman to be president. But I guess I can vote for him. Just as well vote for him as for that stupid wop, Diamico.” Freddy laughed uneasily. He wasn’t comfortable with names for groups of people. Sammy hesitated. “I don’t think we should use words like wop, Dutch. I think we got problems enough without that.” “Wop, Jap, spic, what difference?” So I’m a kraut and you’re a Jap. You are what you are and that’s the way it is.” Dutch looked at Sammy through narrowed eyes. There was a challenge there but Sammy wasn’t ready for it. Dutch nodded. “Don’t worry, little man. I pick smart guys to side with. ‘Sides, you’re going to help do my homework, right?” “If you’ll help with the election, I’ll help with the homework.” Sammy could feel tension easing, but none of this conversation sat right with him. The first week of school was an adjustment, even for a senior. At least he knew where everything was. Sammy spent the week preparing for his speech. Students running for office spoke to the rest of the school at the first assembly of the year. Sammy sat nervously, waiting for his turn to speak. He twisted his speech around in his sweating hands until the paper no longer crinkled. Diamico was going to speak first because he had won the coin toss. Sammy shuffled his feet around while Freddy poked him. “Hey, don’t worry, Diamico will screw up, you watch. What’s he going to say, anyway? He’ll promise better food in the cafeteria and a bunch of 28


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other things he can’t deliver.” Freddie started laughing. “Look at his hair. He’s got so much Vaseline in it you could grease a car.” Ferdie Diamico fumbled with his tie and pulled out his speech. Freddy was right. Diamico’s hair looked like it was painted on. He was leaning against the podium, trying to look taller. As usual, it took a minute for everyone to quiet down. “My fellow students, my name is Ferdie Diamico and I’m running for student body president. I ask that you vote for me because our country is going to war and at the end of this year some of us will be going off to the Army. We need to take sides now. We all know who we’re going to fight. I ask you to vote for me because we need to elect somebody who is on our side. I am one hundred percent American and my parents have been here a long time. Everybody needs to think about this because things are going to change this year. We need to elect people who think like us and who look like us. It’s the American thing to do.” Ferdie smiled and looked over at Sammy as he walked off the stage. There was a lot of hollering and clapping. Sammy walked slowly up to the podium and took out his speech. He unfolded the paper and looked at the words, but he couldn’t speak. A cold lump stuck in his throat, and he could feel the heat rising up his face. He looked out at the students waiting for the words to come. “My name is Isamu Miyaki. Everybody calls me Sammy. I’m running for student body president and I wrote out my speech but now I guess I have something else to say. I heard what Ferdie said and at first I was ashamed that he was talking about me. Then I was mad because he was talking about me as if I wasn’t here. But I am here. Look around this room. There are a lot of us here that look different from one another. Our families all came here for the same reason. To make a better life. Even Ferdie’s family. I guess he forgot that. I don’t know if there’s going to be a war and I don’t know if it is going to be with Japan. So, if it bothers you that I look different, then don’t vote for me. If it isn’t important to you that all of us look a little different, then please vote for me. I don’t have anything else to say.” Sammy could feel the blood rushing to his ears as he walked back to his seat. He couldn’t hear anything. He wanted to throw up. That afternoon Sammy sat through his English and history classes with his head down. He could feel everybody looking at him and he didn’t like it. 29


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Finally, his last class was over. As he got up to leave, Mr. Williams, his teacher, asked him to stay a moment. “Sammy, I was at the assembly today. If it means anything to you, what Ferdie said was wrong. What you did took great courage. You acted like a leader today.” Mr. Williams stuck out his hand. Sammy took it and looked at the kind face of his teacher. “I don’t think I’m going to win.” Mr. Williams’ eyes narrowed slightly. “It isn’t important if you win. It is important to stand up when the wrong things are said or done. You remember that.” Sammy saw Freddy waiting for him at the bus stop. “I heard some of the kids talking and they’re going to vote for you. You did all right. Never mind what Ferdie said.” José was standing nearby. “I told you he was a jerk, didn’t I?” “Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any easier.” He heard the soft voice of Freddy’s sister Betty behind him and he turned when she touched his shoulder. It was like a small jolt of electricity. “I heard your speech today.” Her gentle voice made Sammy strain to hear it. It matched her face, soft and warm. All he could see were her eyes, like the crystal glasses his mother brought out for special occasions, sparkling clear. She turned her head and let the blue black hair fall towards one shoulder. He couldn’t even remember what she had said. She smiled at his discomfort. “I heard your speech today. You were wonderful.” All he could think to do was mumble his thanks. “I’ll vote for you tomorrow. What that boy said hurt all of us.” Sammy was still trying to think of something to say as everybody shuffled on the bus. He looked for an opportunity to sit next to her, but Freddy moved in front of his sister and sat. “You okay? “I guess. I just wish it hadn’t happened.” Dutch walked by and punched Sammy in the arm. “Don’t let it get to ya,” The large young man looked down at Sammy. “My dad came on a boat, too.” Sammy looked up with gratitude and then quickly looked down when Dutch said in a louder voice, “but he didn’t swim cross no river to get here.” He could see the muscles tense on José’s neck but José never turned around. Sammy felt tired. It didn’t make any sense for people to distinguish 30


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between themselves based on name or skin color. He leaned back in his seat. He stared at the burnt umber color of the back of José’s neck before looking down at his own brown hands. His father noticed his face at dinner and asked about his speech. Sammy didn’t have the heart to tell him what happened. He just said that he had been very nervous. But Toshi spoke up before he had a chance to stop him and told their father everything. Sammy gave his older brother a quick look and waited for his father’s reaction. His mother passed food quietly. The meal continued in silence while Shig slowly chewed his food and stared at his son. Then Shig stood and placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Let’s take a walk.” Sammy followed his father outside and down the dirt road that led from their house towards the vines. They walked silently for a few minutes, long shadows falling across the road as the sun set. The soft dust of the roadway remained silent under their feet. The only sound was the slight rustle of the vines as the heat of the ground rose up through the leaves Sammy waited. He knew that when his father was ready to speak, he would. He looked up at the sky and the slowly emerging moon. The crescent shape had lost its sharpness. He could feel his eyes watering. He turned his face away from his father, rubbing his eyes with his sleeve. If his father saw it he kept silent, walking slowly until they came to the ditch running through the ranch. The water was low. Irrigation water wasn’t in much demand now that the crop was in. The water looked like a moving mirror of the sky. Sammy stared at it, listening to the frogs hiding in the grass of the ditch. Finally, his father stopped. As always he spoke slowly, each word weighed and measured. “Isamu, there are days when you must face the hatred of other men. Sometimes it simply comes from ignorance and sometimes from envy, but mostly it comes from fear. If you remember that such words often hide the fear of the other man, then you will not be afraid of such a man. If you look at him and never step back, you will conquer him in the end. If you did not let him see your shame or fear, then you have done what a man must do. I am proud of you. What happens tomorrow will not be remembered by many. What you said today will be remembered by all.” 31


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Shig placed his hand on Sammy’s shoulder. “Let’s go back and finish eating. Your mother has prepared a good meal.” The two men, one older and bending with fatigue, one younger and straightening with pride, walked back to the house. When Sammy got to school the next day he could see that some of his signs had been defaced. The word “Jap” had been painted on a few of them. Freddy walked ahead of him and started to pull them down. Sammy called after him, “No, leave it up. If somebody is going to pay attention to that, then tearing the sign down won’t make any difference.” He walked into his homeroom and got ready to vote. The vote wasn’t as close as Sammy thought it would be. Sammy won by 223 votes. He was the first Asian to become student body president. Still, there was something vaguely unsettling about the victory. He couldn’t stop wondering how many people voted against him because he was Japanese. José was jubilant. “I knew you could win. I knew you’d beat that asshole.” Sammy just smiled. “Maybe you were sure but I wasn’t so sure, especially after yesterday.” José looked directly at his friend, pulling him closer. “Look, Sammy, I’ve never said anything to you about this, but a lot of us voted for you because you’re not white like them.” José hesitated for a moment, thinking about what he wanted to say. “We wanted you to win, especially after what happened yesterday. I know there are things I’m never going to get a chance to do and nobody will ever say why. That’s the worst part, always wondering if you didn’t get a chance because of what you are. Now you got a chance for all of us.” Sammy’s eyes widened at the vehemence in his friend’s voice. He had never heard José speak that way. He never even knew he felt that way. José’s deep-seated anger disturbed him. Sammy couldn’t help but wonder if that same anger would one day come to him.

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chapter

4

September, 1941 Fresno, California

T

he Japanese community in the area surrounding Fresno was not large but it was significant, and it loved baseball, or besuboru as they called it. Almost every Japanese church or Buddhist temple in the area had a team, and the rivalries were fierce. Every Sunday they gathered to worship and then meet on the baseball diamond to fight. Scores were kept and arguments over umpire calls simmered all week until the next game. Sammy and Freddy attended a Congregational church like any other, except the congregation was entirely Japanese. The Lord’s Prayer sounded distinctly different recited in their native language. Carved wood in the front and bright paint distinguished their church from others in the area. The corners of the roof flared upward, and shoes were neatly lined up at the entrance. Sammy’s father said how a church looked was not the point. What it taught your heart was the point. Families came in from the city and surrounding farming towns to gather, worship with their families, and watch whatever games were scheduled between rival churches or the all-star teams. People from Fowler, Selma and even as far as Reedley, forty minutes away, made the trip. Stands were set up with people selling sweet rice cakes, savory skewers of meat, quilts, and crafts made by the ladies of the different women’s guilds. There would be a baseball game later in the day with the Fresno Athletic Club and the Florin Athletic Club from up north. The great


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Moon Kurima was going to pitch for Florin. And, almost more important to Sammy, Betty would be there as well. Sammy was surprised to find such a somber gathering at the church. When the Miyakis arrived, there were crowds of men talking quietly and the women were all together in the shade. Sammy joined Freddy and they moved near where a circle of men had gathered. The men all seemed very agitated and it was clear something was wrong. Sammy and Freddy heard their fathers and the other men talking about Japan. The word senso was repeated over and over again. They had all been reading the paper and the stories about the possibility of war with Japan. Europe was already at war with Germany. Every night they listened to the BBC broadcasts from London that talked of the plight of the English people. That war felt very far away and still the boys heard their fathers at night engaged in quiet conversations with their mothers and the whispered word senso—war. Everyone was passing around a week-old article from the San Francisco Examiner that somebody brought to the church. The headline read, *“SECRET PLANS OF JAPANESE GENERAL STAFF PREPARING FOR WAR WITH A WESTERN POWER.”* The Examiner claimed it had obtained a secret document prepared for the Japanese Minister of War last October. Dr. Akagi, the Miyaki family doctor, was reading the article out loud, detailing Japan’s intention to use a place called Manchuria to obtain war materials and invade Korea. But the worst part was what Dr. Akagi read next. Japan was preparing for war. Sammy heard his father and other men repeating the line in disbelief. A Japanese economic conquest of Manchuria, Korea, and even Mongolia. An invincible position in the Far East. Foundation for the military conquest of the Philippines. All the men sucked in their breath when Dr. Akagi read, “in contemplation of war with the United States.” Sammy stepped back from the circle of murmuring men. He wasn’t sure if what he heard was right. War was something he studied in school. The Civil War—men standing in lines shooting at one another. He had watched parades on Armistice Day, old men in uniforms that were too tight, carrying rifles and talking about the Great War. Even the war in Europe was just a thing to talk about in class. His thoughts were a jumble. We’re going to war with Japan? Japan is a small country. America is big, much bigger—much stronger. This can’t happen. It makes no sense. 34


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He felt his father’s hand brush his shoulder as Mas and Shig moved back from the gathering of men The boys followed, looking at one another, not sure what this meant. “Japan will be sorry if they do this,” said Mas with resignation. “Masaji says he will go back to Japan if there is a fight.” Shig looked down. The same thoughts weighed on his mind. Both of them were born in Japan. They still had family there and now, they had adopted a country that would be against the home of their birth. They did not think as leaders of countries. They did not think of war between nations. They thought of war between families. Japan was not a stranger to them, as it might be to some Americans who called for war. America was not a stranger to them, as it was to swaggering Japanese military men chafing for bushido. For them war meant blood spilled between families. For them, to choose sides meant raising their hands against those they loved, no matter which side they chose. Sammy and Freddy followed behind the heavy steps of their fathers. Finally Shig said, “We are now Americans. Our children are Americans. We must act like Americans. This is our home now. Let us pray this does not happen.” Mas’s face reflected his anguish. He spoke slowly, so the words would not tumble out. “It is more than I can bear to think of my brother’s children fighting against America. Our sons will be soldiers against our families.” Shig touched his friend on the shoulder, “We will do what honorable men do. This country is our home now and we must be her children. So must our sons.” The two friends walked back to the church slowly. Church seemed to take forever. Sammy tried to get his mind around his father’s words. Finally, he decided it was more than he was prepared to contemplate. There were things outside he would rather do. The smell of incense filled the church. They were used to it, but today they wanted the smell of the grass and the dirt of the game. But first, they wanted to eat. The smell of sizzling meat and shrimp filled the air outside the church. Freddy and Sammy moved through the food lines, picking up savory rice and chicken in sweet sauces. Freddy’s sister Betty edged into their line. Sammy watched out of the corner of his eye while talking to her brother, whose mind was on whether Moon Kurima could throw as hard as people said. “Do you think Zenimura can hold up against Moon?” 35


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Freddy was a big fan of Moon Kurima, even though he played for a rival team. “Zenimura will show those strawberry farmers how baseball is played.” snorted Sammy. The Florin team came from a strawberry farming area, and it had been difficult for them to make this game because it took time away from the constant attention a strawberry field needed. Still, the attraction of playing Fresno was too strong. Besides, Kenichi Zenimura was a legend. He had played against Babe Ruth. Moon hadn’t done that. Freddy would see. “Let me help Betty with her plate.” Sammy held her plate while she reached for a napkin. “She doesn’t need any help, Sammy. Let’s go find some shade.” “Just a minute, we should wait for Betty.” Sammy could feel the heat rise in his face when Betty smiled at him. “She’s going to follow us now, I hope you know that.” Freddy’s exasperation was beginning to show. “So what. She’s your sister, you should be taking care of her.” Freddy sniffed at his food. “You seem to be doing that okay. She’s not going to get lost. Just sit down.” Betty sat down closer to Sammy than to her brother. Sammy couldn’t help but notice how gently she laid her napkin in her lap. Her hands were soft and delicate. Freddy snapped him out of his reverie. “Hurry up and eat. Maybe we can get to the park a little early and see Moon warm up.” He was already on his feet, wiping his hands on his pants and heading for the field. The players were already there when the fans arrived. Sammy could see Zenimura working the players. He was the coach and a player. To play for Zenimura was a great honor. He had already won a Japanese American state championship and taken an elite team to Japan. Sammy could see two of Zenimura’s best players talking about their own glory days. Johnny Nakagawa was sitting next to Charley Hendsch. Nakagawa was a legendary player and everyone called him the Nisei Babe Ruth because of the number of home runs he hit. Hendsch had played for Fresno State and ended up playing semi-pro ball. He was a big hitter and a popular player. Both men were laughing about the old days when they could play in the sun all day. Age had slowed them down, but that 36


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didn’t mean they didn’t want to be out there on the field. Sammy could hear them laughing as Zenimura yelled at his players. Over the laughter and excitement, the voice of old Mr. Honda could be heard talking about the day Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came to Fresno in 1927 and played an exhibition game. Mr. Honda couldn’t hear very well and he had no idea how loud he was speaking. Sammy had heard the story at least a thousand times, but old Mr. Honda told it well. Sammy couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to go up against Babe Ruth and win. If you did only one great thing as a baseball player, that would have to be it. Sammy looked around the stands and saw José sitting on the edge of a bench seat on the first base line. He walked over to say hello. “What are you doing here?” “I hitched a ride with Sack. I wanted to see Moon Kurima pitch.” “Sack’s here, too?” There was surprise in Sammy’s voice. “I don’t know why you’re surprised, my sister’s here.” Sammy looked around and saw Carmen over by the gate talking to Sack. He walked over to say hello and give Sack a hard time. But as soon as Sammy saw them up close, he decided that it wasn’t the right time for teasing. Sack looked very serious. He rested his hand on Carmen’s shoulder. She was leaning in, her head not quite touching his chest. Sammy had never seen them so close. Carmen’s shiny black hair fell alongside her face, hiding her eyes. Sack was talking, but his lips were barely moving “Why the long face, Sack?” Sack turned at the sound of Sammy’s question. Carmen kept her face turned away. His voice was hoarse, almost guttural. “I’m leavin’ tomorrow, Sammy. I tole’ you I was gonna join the Navy and I did. They got me shippin’ out tomorrow for San Diego. I’m gonna try to be a gunner’s mate on one a’ them big ships.” Sammy stepped back and thought about what everyone had been reading earlier in the day. He could see the wetness on Carmen’s face as she looked down at the ground. Sammy backed off. He wasn’t sure what to say, but he knew he had interrupted something private. “Be careful out there. The ocean’s a lot deeper than the ditch behind the house.” Sack moved his head almost imperceptibly, as if giving serious thought to Sammy’s observation. “Guess I’ll hafta learn how to swim. 37


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I could always stand up in the ditch.” Sack looked at him and then at Carmen. “I’ll be back, Sammy. Me and Carmen got plans.” “Does José know?” Sammy asked. “Yeah, but he won’t say nothin’ to Carmen’s dad. We’re gonna wait til’ I get back from my first year. Then I can take care of her.” Sammy decided it was time to leave. He turned to find Freddy. There was a lot to talk about. The boys walked over to watch Moon warm up. “Freddy, who’s the guy in uniform sitting with Stewie?” Stewart “Stewie” Tamura was sitting next to a young man in an army uniform. People were talking to him, but he seemed to be concentrating on what was going on in the field. “His name’s Otani. He’s home on leave. Look at everybody around him. That uniform really does it for the girls.” The players took the field to wild cheering and catcalls from the fans. The Japanese were normally reserved in behavior, but baseball was an excuse to let go. Sammy could hear the betting start. Good-natured goading over how many runs Fresno was going to win by were responded to by snorts of derision. Shouts of “we’ll see” and “just wait” were heard all over the field. Sammy found a seat and noticed that Betty sat down next to him. “Sammy, you watching the game or not?” Freddy asked. “Of course I’m watching.” The game quickly stretched out, with neither side scoring until the bottom of the fourth. Moon was pitching. A pitcher’s job is to control the plate. He faces a batter much like a gunfighter. Kurima certainly knew his role and Zenimura was at bat. He knew his role too. A pitch is the culmination of the massing of muscle propelling the arm forward and delicately twisting the wrist to the elbow to place spin on a ball the size of an orange. So beautiful when done skillfully, forcing the ball to a speed of ninety miles an hour at a glove sixty feet away, and over in less than two seconds. To hit a ball well-thrown is the hardest thing to do. Everyone knew Moon was a good pitcher. Zenimura had seen Moon before. It was timing and reflex, timing and reflex. Sammy watched in fascination as Kurima pushed dirt around the rubber bar in the mound. Somehow, he looked like a coiled snake as he pushed his leg high in the air and snapped his arm forward. They could hear the grunt as the ball left his hand. To Sammy it happened in 38


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slow motion. He could see the ball as it struck the bat. A hard skimmer between the short stop and second. Zenimura was around first and edging towards second before the center fielder pushed him back with a hard throw. The shouts of fans were all over the field. Zenimura was almost forty but he could still play. “Hash” Hashimoto was up. Freddy and Sammy leaned forward. Hash was a good hitter but he didn’t like to hit an inside fastball. “Ball one.” The umpire shouted. It looked high, but Moon was throwing for the inside. “Strike one.” The booing and heckling drowned out the umpire, but it looked like the inside corner of the plate to Sammy. “Strike two.” You could hear the cheering when the crowd heard the crack of the bat, then hear the groans as they watched the ball curl up and over the backstop. Foul ball. José was sitting behind the boys. “Watch this. He’s going to throw a curve.” “Naw, he’s going to throw another fastball, you watch.” Moon shook his head at the catcher’s sign. He wiped his forehead on his arm. José laughed. “Watch his hand, he’s rubbing the ball. He’s going to throw a spitter.” “He isn’t going to throw a spitter. You watch. It’s going to be a fastball, low and inside.” They could hear the crack of the bat all over the field. Hashimoto caught the ball on an upswing. Everyone was on their feet, willing the ball over the fence. Willing the ball to drop before the fence. It landed over the fence. A home run. The cheering mixed with the groaning. Zenimura trotted the last few feet to home and stood to slap Hash on the back as he crossed the plate. Two runs for Fresno, nothing for Florin. This was looking good, but Sammy’s interest in the game was beginning to wane. He looked over and saw Otani, the soldier in uniform. For some reason he couldn’t get Sack and Carmen out of his mind. He looked over at the spot at the end of the bleachers where he had left them, but they were gone. With José’s family leaving for Texas Carmen would be going with them. Sack wouldn’t have a reason to come back. 39


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Freddy’s exuberance jarred him back from his thoughts. “Could you believe Kurima? A home run in the ninth? What a smack he put on the ball.” Sammy just laughed. He hadn’t even been aware of what was happening. “Yeah, he did it to us all right. He’s a good player.” Freddy couldn’t restrain himself, “He’s the best. He’s the best.” He looked at Sammy for a response, then shook his head. Both young men watched the game quietly, each caught up in his own thoughts.

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5

September, 1941 Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii

T

he two young men dressed as soldiers walked along the shore of Oahu, kicking at rocks in the dirt above the beach. It was another day of pointless drills. One minute they had been in the 289th Hawaiian National Guard on Oahu, and the next minute the unit had been federalized and they were in the army for real. The spurts of rain blowing onto the shore did little to relieve the heat and humidity. It was just part of life in the islands. The sun shined while rain fell from passing clouds. The pie pan helmets on their heads didn’t help, either. The two men were trying to stay in the little shade along the road above the beach. This was definitely not part of their plan. The National Guard hadn’t been a bad deal when it was only weekend duty but after the National Guard 298th and 299th Hawaiian units were federalized, the men became more aware of how close they were to being real soldiers. They both complained but also knew they had little else to do. They would complete their military service and get paid. At least they got to go home most nights and could usually get a weekend off if they needed it. There were reasons to have a local military presence added to the significant military presence on the island. Theoretically, the men in the National Guard were part of the first line of defense for the islands. Of course, none of them took that seriously. This was Hawaii, not Los Angeles. Right now, their minds were not on defending their homes. Tug, the smaller of the two men, seemed to move forward as slowly and relentlessly


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as the work boat he was named after. The other man, Yuki, moved ahead swiftly then looked back, as if his look could drag the smaller man forward. A fast cruiser and a work boat chasing her. “Tug, move a little faster will you? I want to get back so we can find some shade.” The smaller man just grinned with a smile that matched his size. Five feet four inches tall and just as wide. That’s why all the boys called him Tug Taniguchi instead of George. He didn’t mind. He liked being called Tug. It seemed to fit. Together they made a strange pair. Yukio Watanabe was five feet ten inches, tall for a Japanese and even taller when next to Tug. “Taniguchi, you should have been a sumo wrestler.” “Be careful, Watanabe, or I’ll push you all the way back.” “First you’d have to move.” “Hey brah, I move but see no reason to move in this heat.” “Stop with the beach boy routine. You sound like some surfer boy down at Waikiki working on the tourists.” Tug grinned, his white teeth showing The clothes of both men were stained dark with sweat. It ran down their backs and down their legs. Salt rings seeped through their shirts, under their arms and on their backs. Even though they had both grown up on the island and were used to the heat and the humidity, they weren’t used to being dressed in such clothes. The heavy uniforms just didn’t make sense in the humidity of August. Tug kept complaining, wondering why he couldn’t wear an Aloha shirt and shorts. Finally, Tug’s mind moved off his discomfort. “Yuki, you’re pitching tomorrow against the Wanderers?” The Wanderers were a team of haoles, white boys, who played in the Hawaiian Baseball League. “You should be able to beat hell out of those haoles.” Tug grinned at the thought of teasing his white friends, who would be rooting for the Wanderers. “Maybe, but for white boys they’re pretty good. This is going to be a tough game. We’ll see.” Tug grunted. “You always say, we’ll see. Why don’t you just say you’re going to beat them? It’s bad luck to have doubts.” “Maybe so, but it’s just stupid to be overconfident. We’ll see.” Tug snorted. “You wouldn’t be playing for Asahi if you couldn’t beat those boys.” 42


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“Yeah, and they wouldn’t be playing for the Wanderers if they couldn’t beat us. We’ll see.” But both young men knew that Asahi was the best. The team to beat. It was one of the oldest teams in Hawaii and the premier Japanese team. Yuki knew that tomorrow was going to be a tough day if he didn’t pitch his best. His height normally helped him to bear down on a hitter, but the boys who played for the Wanderers weren’t like the Chinese boys who played for the Tigers or the all-Filipino team. Many of them were just as tall as him and a lot beefier. “Yuki, I‘ve decided I‘m not cut out to be a soldier. We been doing this since October when they activated us. How much longer you think we’re going to have to stay in? I don’t think I need money this bad to walk around in the sun dressed this way. You like this stuff. I know I don’t plan to spend any more time in a uniform than I have to. Our rifles don’t even have bullets in them.” Yuki made a face. “They don’t have firing pins either. Why do you need bullets? You going to be attacked by a seagull? Stop whining. We’re in til’ they say we’re not. All I know is I’m going back to school when I get out.” “What do we do if the Japs come?” “The Japs aren’t coming, Tug, you know that. We’re too big a country. They couldn’t be that stupid. Besides, they aren’t going to take on the whole Pacific fleet.” Both boys gave no thought to the fact that they were of Japanese descent. To them, Hawaii was home and they were Americans. Their guard unit was made up of Hawaiians, Chinese, Portuguese and just about everything else, including local boys of Japanese descent. Japs were Japs. It wasn’t the same thing. “Stop worrying. Besides, if they do come they’re just going to think you’re a big rock because you move at about the same speed.” Tug and Yuki eventually made their way into the Guard post office. It wasn’t that much cooler in the office, but at least it had shade and a fan. “What took you two so long?” snapped Lt. Coehlo. Usually Coehlo was fairly soft- spoken. Yuki figured it must be the heat and decided to be agreeable. Tug, however, couldn’t resist baiting Coehlo. “We were watching the water to see if the enemy was coming. We almost got attacked by a coconut.” Coehlo didn’t laugh, but then Coehlo 43


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never laughed. He took everything seriously, including walking along an empty beach guarding against seagulls. Coehlo’s face showed his disgust with Tug’s lack of military bearing. He couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “You never know, but if they do come you two won’t see them until they walk on the beach.” Coehlo’s bad humor didn’t faze Tug. “Well, Lieutenant, if I see them coming I’ll just fire a warning shot from my rifle so you can get ready for them.” “Taniguchi, there’s a reason why we don’t give you any bullets. It starts with your mouth. Less talking and more watching and maybe I wouldn’t worry so much. Anyway, I need you two to go over to Schofield and get these supplies. Bring them back tomorrow.” Yuki’s face fell. “Coehlo, you know I’m supposed to pitch tomorrow.” Coehla looked at both men. “That’s Lieutenant Coehlo to you, Corporal Watanabe. You don’t think guarding the island is more important than baseball?” He waited for Tug and Yuki to think of something else to say but both men stood quietly, their minds already on how to avoid coming back tomorrow. “Anyway, I didn’t say what time you had to bring back the supplies, did I?” Coehlo’s face had just a hint of a smile. “Make sure I have a good seat at the game.” By noon the next day the sun was steaming everybody in Honolulu Stadium. It was the best diamond in Honolulu. Sometimes called “the Termite Palace,” rumor had it that the University of Hawaii was conducting a study of the effects of termites on wood and were using Honolulu Stadium as their testing area. People said that it was only the termites holding hands that kept the whole place intact. The fans didn’t care. The place hadn’t fallen down yet. The Asahi team had been around since before the Hawaiian Baseball League was formed in 1927. There was always an intense but friendly rivalry with the haole boys. Many of the younger men on the two teams had played together in high school, so the heckling was going to be fierce on both sides. That was part of the entertainment. Everyone was polishing up their insults. The competition would be heated and no quarter would be given. It promised to be a great day for baseball. 44


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“Doc” Komatani stood near the dugout, watching his players warm up. Doc was a dentist whose passion was baseball and he was part owner of Asahi. Yuki could hear him shouting instructions to the players as they went through their warm-ups. He had a face that reminded Yuki of a bulldog, and sized to match. When he laughed, everybody laughed, mostly because of the way his whole body shook. Doc turned when he saw Yuki walking towards the bullpen. “You ready to throw today, Yuki?” “I’m ready Doc. I got the heat.” “Uh-huh, uh-huh, just throw the heat and we’ll be fine.” Yuki laughed and kept walking. Tug followed Yuki into the bullpen to help him warm up. Tug caught for Yuki on the high school team, but he wasn’t good enough to play for Asahi. In this heat it wasn’t going to take long to warm up. Yuki stretched out his lanky frame and pulled his right arm behind his head, then his left arm the other way. Back and forth until he felt the muscles begin to loosen. Tug tossed him a scuffed ball from the bag and waited for Yuki to throw. “Come on Yuki, just toss a few to make sure your elbow is loose.” Yuki had a bit of a side arm pitch. It was tough on his elbow, but it made him throw a natural slider. Tough to hit if it was thrown with velocity. And Yuki had velocity. Yuki loved the feeling of standing by himself on the mound. He felt like the Lone Ranger on the radio. Just him against the bad guys. The first pitch slid through the damp air, gathering moisture from the humidity. When they played, the ball reacted to the dampness and got a little heavier. Today was going to see many heavy balls. Joe Takata stood, watching Yuki warm up. Joe was the star outfielder. He was also in the Guard and played centerfield. “Hey, Yuki, you come to play?” “Takata, I always come to play. You just do your part and hit, okay? Hope you didn’t stay out too late with Florence last night.” “Yeah, brah, don’t you worry about old Joe. I’ll hit the ball. You just make sure those haole boys don’t hit the ball.” Joe walked over to the dugout to sit and think about the game. Yuki took his hat off and rubbed the sweat from his forehead. He wondered how many more chances he would get to pitch before the 45


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Army decided he could make better use of his arm, holding an empty rifle and guarding the other side of the island. What were they all so afraid of ? Didn’t they read the paper? Just the other day the Honolulu Star Bulletin said, *“A Japanese attack in Hawaii is regarded as the most unlikely thing in the world, with one chance in a million of being successful. Besides having more defenses than any other post, it is protected by distance.”* Yuki toed out the dirt in front of the pitcher’s rubber on the mound and laughed to himself. I wonder what the Japs would think if they knew we didn’t even have bullets in our rifles? He squared off and took one more practice throw from the mound.

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6

October, 1941 Calwa, California

S

ammy walked over to the Duran family’s room next to the equipment shed. He was hoping maybe he and José could get in a little catch before his father reminded him again of his chores. He saw that the Durans were packing their few belongs into cloth bags and two open suitcases. Carmen was tying a string around a box of her mother’s prized cooking utensils. The nails where the chilies and other spices had hung were empty. “José, what’s going on?” Sammy knew the answer but didn’t want to hear it. “We’re going to Texas, Sammy. My father wants to leave on the bus early in the morning.” José’s voice betrayed the emotion his face was trying to hide. “I guess I won’t be playing ball with you this year.” Sammy hung his head. First Mickey and now José. He wasn’t sure what to say. “How will I get letters to you? Sack is going to keep sending letters to Carmen and he sends them to me first.” “I got an address from my mom. Here.” José handed over a rumpled folded piece of paper. “Send the letters to me and I’ll make sure Carmen gets them.” Sammy walked out of the small house and turned, “I’ll be right back.” He hurried to his room and rummaged through his drawers until he found what he was looking for. He raced back to his friend.


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Sammy handed José a bag. “Here, take this with you. Maybe you can use it.” Silently, José reached out and took the bag. He didn’t need to look inside. He knew it was Sammy’s best baseball. “I’ll write you and let you know where I end up. We’ll see each other again, don’t worry.” “Yeah, we’ll see each other again.” Both boys stood awkwardly waiting for the other to make the first move. José stuck out his hand and Sammy reached for it. “Take it easy.” “Yeah, you too.” Sammy walked away. He kicked the dirt as he made his way back to the house. His father would be waiting. There was work to do.

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7

October, 1941 San Diego, California

S

ack was alone when he left Fresno. Carmen wasn’t at the bus station, nor did he expect her to be. His parents already pushed on to the crops in the north. Sack had been doing odd jobs around the ranch and sleeping in the shed where the raisin trays were stored. He was able to catch a ride from Mr. Bagdasarian, who dropped him off and wished him well. The rancher also handed him a few extra dollars. “For the trip,” he said. “Keep yourself safe, boy.” He stood at the curb as Mr. Bagdasarian drove off, watching the rancher’s truck pull away. Then he turned and walked into the bus station alone. Sack held onto the ticket he received from the Navy recruiter as others at the bus station said goodbye to their families. It only made leaving harder. He and Carmen said their goodbyes by the canal where they had met secretly for months. Both searched for the right words but were left with only long moments of silence between them. Sack spent the first hours on the bus staring at the small valley towns that hugged the highway. Every stop seemed just the same, a dusty farm town with new passengers climbing on the bus who looked the same as the ones who stepped off. He only spent a few moments watching the new arrivals before he lost interest. Most of his thoughts were about Carmen and whether she would be there for him when he came back. He stared out the streaked window of the bus at the flat, open land. When he had followed the crops with his parents, they stayed on the back highways and farming roads. The view was always the same, brown


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earth and green crops. The view from the bus wasn’t any different than it had been from his parents’ truck. The bus crawled over the twisting mountain pass called the Grapevine that bridged the Central Valley with the Southern California basin. Cars sat beside the road on the steep mountain grade, their radiators steaming from the strain of the climb. He had never been this far south, but he sympathized with the families standing beside their cars crowded with their few possessions. He had also stood beside his father’s over heated truck many times. He knew how it felt to watch others pass you by. Now, as the bus left the mountain road and came down into Los Angeles, all he saw through the window were palm trees and blue skies. As the bus followed the coastal highway he saw the ocean, stretching blue and frothing as far as he could see. He couldn’t take his eyes off the endless expanse of water. It was the first time he’d seen the ocean. When he arrived in San Diego, he looked out over a harbor sheltering massive ships that he had only seen before in the posters outside the recruiter’s office. With a few other enlistees, he found his way to the ferry and crossed San Diego Bay. He stood on the blunt-nosed bow of the ferry, feeling the spray of water and looking at the blue-gray ships hugging the harbor edge. A massive battleship rode at anchor, her guns cocked at the sky like the prickly spikes of a porcupine. He looked down at the harbor’s green water and then up at the guns of the huge ship. One day I’ll fire those guns. When he arrived at the San Diego Naval Training Station, Sack walked through the wooden gate and stopped to read the sign over the entrance: WELCOME ABOARD You Are Now Men Of The United States Navy The Traditions of the Service Demand Your Utmost Effort Give It Cheerfully And Willingly He felt the rush of anticipation. He was in the Navy. He was going to see the world. Already everything was different. The air was balmy, a sharp contrast to the heat of the Central Valley. He let the warm breeze flow over him. It was one of the few times he could remember welcoming the sun on his face instead of feeling it burn into his back. 50


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Over the excited voices of the other young men standing near the entrance, he heard a bellowing voice that sounded like a fog horn. A grizzled older man approached them. He had stripes on his sleeve that ran from top to bottom. “Welcome to the Navy, boys. Now get your asses in line.” It was time to begin.

Two months passed quickly after Sack had walked through the gate, and he still had a month of basic training to go. He sat down heavily on his locker and picked up the boot he had just removed. So far, all he had seen of San Diego was the way it looked across the sparkling water of the bay. The first day hadn’t been so bad, except for the haircut. He never realized how big his ears were until he saw himself in the mirror after the barber shaved his head. The auburn fuzz made him look like a peach. Then he walked into a supply warehouse, still rubbing his head, and was handed a sea bag and piles of clothing. Nobody asked him his size, except for his shoes, and even then he didn’t think they paid any attention. After a little trading between the new recruits, almost everybody found something that fit. He pushed the polish rag into the creases of the boot. He kept one boot on in case his trainer came in. Sack learned quickly that whatever the Navy wanted done, they wanted it done now. One boot off at a time meant only one boot to be tied in a hurry. He fell into the habit of taking any opportunity to shine his shoes, because he never knew when another would come. The Navy didn’t seem to care if he slept as long as he kept his boots polished and his bunk made. As much as he hated to admit it, Navy life wasn’t much better than working in the fields. He still got up at 5:30 in the morning, and there was still always someone with a big gut yelling at him to work faster. Sack worked the polish into the boot, carefully scraping away flecks of paint from a ship- painting drill. He learned to make a bunk with square corners. He learned to march around in circles and squares, and he learned to stand in line for everything that he might enjoy. He learned how to row a whale boat. He could throw a line off a ship to the dock. As far as Sack was concerned, none of it meant anything because he still hadn’t been on a 51


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real ship. His only advantage came when firing a rifle. He had fired a rifle many times to get a stray rabbit for dinner. Most of the boys in the barracks had never seen a gun, except during the Saturday matinee. He kept pushing the polish around, ignoring the sound of the other men in the barracks. He missed his family as much as he missed Carmen. Every day he answered mail call, but the letters were few and far between. He knew better than to expect anything from his mother and father. They weren’t much for writing. He didn’t even know where his parents were. His family followed the crops. It took him some time to realize that he had never been away from home before, though home was no specific place. Sack looked around the barracks. This room was the closest thing to a real place to live he ever had. But it wasn’t home. Home was wherever his parents were. Wherever the crops were. And now, he thought, home was Carmen. He started another letter to her, but it was always a struggle. He knew how he felt about her, but somehow it never came out right on paper. For Sack, writing was almost a painful experience. A few of the other men in the barracks were also writing letters. There wasn’t much to do with the little free time they had, except to write letters and tell lies about the girls back home. He didn’t talk too much about Carmen. Mostly he kept to himself and Buford, the recruit who had the bunk directly next to him. He wondered what the future held for him and Carmen. He wanted to tell her that he was going to try to be a machinist when he got out, so he could support her. He didn’t want to spend his life picking grapes and apples. Sack wiped the polish from his hands and unlaced his other boot, carefully removing the leggings that kept his pants bloused. He reached for the unfinished letter. Maybe he would tell Carmen about the rumor they were all going to the Pacific Fleet. Buford lifted his head from his bunk and rolled over on his side, facing Sack. “Pritch, ain’t you through writin’ that gal of yours? We gotta get our gear stowed for inspection. I don’t want no potato detail again.” “Stop yammering, Bufe. I’m done writin’. We got some time. ‘Sides, the only thing you like to eat is potatoes. Don’t you never get enough?” “I never get enough of anything when it comes to food.” Bufe Douglas laughed, his ruddy complexion almost hiding his freckles. He was a big old Oklahoma boy, at least six feet one and well over two hundred 52


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pounds, at least when they started basic training. He had slimmed down some from the daily running, but he did his best to add the weight back at every meal. Bufe was born poor and stayed poor until he joined the Navy. As far as he was concerned, any place that kept his belly full was all right with him. “Sack, the poop is we’re gettin’ our orders pretty quick. Where you want to go?” Sack usually kept his ambitions to himself, but he didn’t mind sharing them with Bufe. “I’m hopin’ for a battlewagon. Those big guns are the thing for me. I’m hopin’ for Hawaii. I sure would like to see them islands. And the women.” Bufe laid his head back on his pillow and laughed. “What do you care about the women? The only woman you ever talk about is Carmen.”

It was well into November, and there was only one more week to go before training was finished. They had their orders. Bufe walked into the barracks and threw two letters on Sack’s bunk. Sack looked at the envelopes and the tiny writing, already several weeks old. He held the letters, savoring the moment as long as he could then he looked up to see Bufe staring at him. Bufe’s hands were empty. “You get any letters?” Bufe shook his head. “Nah, folks ain’t much for writin’ but my sister tries. Nothin’ today ‘cept for you. Sack nodded and turned back to the two thin envelopes. He carefully opened the one with the earlier postmark and unfolded the paper. Carmen told him that she was sorry she hadn’t been able to write. Her father watched her closely. She received all of his letters. The family was leaving soon for Texas. He stared at the penciled marks on the paper. She’s probably already gone to Texas. She doesn’t want me to work with guns. She wants me to be a cook. She thinks being a cook is safer. He looked up when he realized Bufe was still standing over him. “What’d she say? She still likin’ you, or you gettin’ one of them Dear Johns?” He carefully folded the letter and put it in his pocket. “Yeah, she still likes me.” He patted his shirt pocket. The best part of the letter told him that she had talked to her mother about him. That was a start. 53


Tears of Honor

Sack saved Carmen’s second letter so he could read it without interruption. He carefully opened the second envelope written a week after the first and unfolded the paper with its pages of neat script. She missed him every day. Her mother said that she would talk to her father. They were moving to Texas. She would write as soon as they had settled. She still wanted him to be a cook. His eyes lingered over her signature: with love, Carmen. Carmen’s last two letters were enough to get him through the last week of Basic. Sack sat on his bunk, trying to think of what to write back. He had hoped to get back to Calwa before Carmen left for Texas, but there hadn’t been enough time. He finished the last line of his letter without putting anything down about his orders, except to say that he was going someplace else. He had been ordered not to write anything about them until he got to his new duty station. Bufe straightened his bunk. “We gotta get moving if we’re gonna catch the bus into town.” Sack sealed the letter. Hopefully, Carmen would write soon. The Navy said that mail would be sent on to wherever he was in the Pacific Fleet. He was both disappointed and excited. There would be no leave time to see Carmen. But he was going to a battleship, just like the one he had seen riding at anchor when he crossed the bay on the ferry. Bufe could not control his excitement or his impatience. “Buddy, can you believe it? We’re going to Hawaii.”

54


about the author

James A. Ardaiz is a former prosecutor, judge, and Presiding Justice of the California Fifth District Court of Appeal. From 1974 to 1980, Ardaiz was a prosecutor for the Fresno County District Attorney’s office. In 1980 Ardaiz was elected to the Fresno Municipal Court, where he served as assistant presiding judge and presiding judge. Ardaiz was appointed to the California Fifth District Court of Appeal in 1988 and was named the court’s Presiding Justice in 1994. Ardaiz retired from the bench in 2011 and remains active in the legal profession. Ardaiz has received many civic honors, including the Distinguished American Award presented to him in 2008 by the Japanese American Citizens League for his service to the Japanese American community. Ardaiz’s previous books include Hands Through Stone, a first-hand nonfiction account of his work on the investigation and prosecution of murderer Clarence Ray Allen, the last man executed by the State of California, and Fractured Justice and Shades of Truth, the first two novels in Ardaiz’s Matt Jamison mystery series. Ardaiz wrote Tears of Honor after five years of extensive historical research, including interviews with one of the central real-life characters in the novel, retired U.S. Army Colonel Young Oak Kim. Ardaiz’s website is jamesardaiz.com.

Profile for Kent Sorsky

Tears of Honor  

A sweeping novel of history, war, and courage in the face of injustice, Tears of Honor tells the story of the heroic Japanese-American soldi...

Tears of Honor  

A sweeping novel of history, war, and courage in the face of injustice, Tears of Honor tells the story of the heroic Japanese-American soldi...

Profile for ksorsky

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